Congressman Gregory Meeks expressed overwhelming support of the program being offered by District Council 9.For Rockaway's Jobless|
By Gary G. Toms
For a number of years, unemployment has been a major issue affecting the residents of the Rockaway community, but it has been an even bigger problem for those in the areas of Far Rockaway, Edgemere and Arverne. On January 5, Congressman Gregory Meeks, along with office representatives, held an Employment Seminar, at Junior High School 198, to address this crisis.
In a packed auditorium, District Council 9, a local union that consists of painters, glaziers, wall coverers, decorators, dry wall finishers, tapers, metal polishers, and structural steel and bridge painters, introduced an apprenticeship program that is being offered to the Rockaway community.
"We want to provide diversity in the workplace and economic opportunity through this program, and our overall goal is to make sure that people can make a good wage and provide for themselves and their families," said Tom Ferrante, Director of District Council 9.
The program, in conjunction with the Joint Apprentice and Training Fund, serves the area from the tip of Montauk, all the way up to Canada, covering Eastern New York State. Apprentices serve a total of four years apprenticeship. Each year an apprentice must attend class for 144 hours and complete 1800 hours of on the job training. All apprentices are trained in the following areas: Safety and Health OSHA 10; Scaffold User, Erector, Dismantler; First Aid, CPR and Bloodborne Pathogens; New Jersey State Lead Abatement Certification; New York State Certified Asbestos Handler and others.
Graduates and current members of the apprenticeship program spoke to the audience about how it has changed their lives.
"There are a number of incentives in place to make the program attractive to members of the community," Ferrante states.
"First and foremost, you need at least a GED to get into the program. If you do not have one, we are working on several methods to help people obtain a GED so they can start the program, which has been approved by the New York State Boards of Education."
Ferrante continued, "Another incentive is the fact that you start earning a paycheck the moment you start training, and after a year of employment, you can transfer to work in another state because our union spans across the United States and into Canada. For those who may be looking for a better life for their family, this program offers that opportunity. You will earn skills that will last you a lifetime."
Congressman Gregory Meeks told the large audience that by joining the apprenticeship program, it would help them to obtain employment positions that will become available, in the next two to four years, as numerous construction projects begin throughout the Rockaway peninsula.
A Far Rockaway resident, and current member of the apprenticeship program, speaks to the audience about his accomplishments since joining.
"There is no reason why workers coming from outside the community should have preference over those who are qualified to do the work right here in our community. We must make sure that we are given the chance to take part in the reconstruction of Rockaway."
Matthew Isador, a member of Local Union 25, and an instructor in the program, urged members of the community to take part in the program as well.
"This is one of the best things you can do to insure your future and the future of your family. I have achieved many of my goals because of the program. It works, and I've seen it change people's lives."
Some of the benefits available as a member of District Council 9 are health, eyeglass and dental benefits; annuity plans; pension plans; vacation plans; death benefit plans; and an opportunity to be part of the most politically active unions in New York City. You will also have a chance to upgrade your skills on many different levels during your career.
Each apprentice has the opportunity for advancement in the field. Shop Stewards, Foremen, Estimators, Supervisors and Union Officers all come from the rank and file of District Council 9.
"I cannot stress enough how important it is to meet the requirements of the program. Number one, you must have a GED. Number two, the program is offered to both men and women, and you must be physically able to do the work required of the trade. Lastly, you must be able to demonstrate evidence of ability to reach remote job sites," said the District Director.
The only cost incurred for the program is a $100 application fee, and Ferrante states that every applicant will have a chance to get into the program. Ferrante is currently negotiating with state officials to have the application fee waived.
"We are here to help you, and that is what we are going to do. The rest is up to you. If you can commit to one night a week and have no more than three absences during the training year, you will go through the program with no problem. It takes dedication and hard work, and if you have that, you are guaranteed to pass the program."
The apprenticeship program also offers courses in Spanish to help those who do not speak the English language. Moreover, the apprenticeship program has a special interest in working with people who have been incarcerated, for the purpose of allowing them to have a second chance to succeed.
"Someone asked me if the program would exclude people with a criminal background. Let me tell you something. I wouldn't have any applicants or apprentices in the program if that was the case," stated Ferrante.
If you would like more information about the District Council 9 Joint Apprenticeship Program, you can call them at (718) 937-7440.