Date November 18, 2022
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Building Futures honors Brown with inaugural Impact via Apprenticeship Award

At a 15-year anniversary celebration held on Thursday, Nov. 17, Building Futures recognized the University for its long-term partnership in helping hundreds of Rhode Islanders to launch rewarding construction careers.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In recognition of Brown’s longstanding commitment to supporting Rhode Island’s construction workforce, the Providence-based nonprofit Building Futures presented the University with its inaugural Impact via Apprenticeship Award during the organization’s 15th-anniversary celebration on Thursday, Nov. 17.

Building Futures launched in 2007 to provide a pathway for low-income Rhode Islanders seeking well-paying careers in the building trades, an industry that continues to face a worker shortage. Over its first 15 years, 128 Building Futures pre-apprenticeship program graduates have logged upwards of 465,000 hours on 34 different construction projects at Brown, many progressing into well-paying construction careers.

Brown was one of three registered apprenticeship partners recognized at the celebration, which was timed to coincide with  National Apprenticeship Week. The impact award commended the University for supporting "hundreds of Rhode Islanders to launch rewarding careers while helping to develop Rhode Island's construction workforce," according to Building Futures’ announcement.

In presenting the award to University President Christina H. Paxson, Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council President Michael Sabitoni said the growth of Building Futures and the health of Rhode Island's construction labor force is due in large part to institutional partners like Brown.

“What Building Futures has done in 15 years is impressive, and it doesn't happen alone,” Sabitoni said. “A lot of people that got it to this point are in this room. The power and impact of a program like this is massive. It's building the middle class and changing people's lives. It's not what we build, it's how we build it. With Building Futures, we're investing in ourselves and our community.”

Brown’s partnership with Building Futures began in 2008 when the University and nonprofit agreed to a pilot, with a small group of construction apprentices joining in the renovation of what is now called Page-Robinson Hall. The pilot was so successful that the two organizations agreed that Building Futures graduates would contribute 15% of the total labor hours on every major campus construction project afterward.

“I learned about Building Futures early in my time as president at Brown, and I was sold immediately,” Paxson told the audience on Thursday. “I walk to work every day, and I see the folks working through the pandemic, through weather, through everything, and their work is outstanding. I'm grateful that we're part of this program and helping to build lives and the welfare of families in this region.”

Andre Gatlin, a union carpenter with the Carpenters Local Union 330, joined Sabitoni in presenting the award. He began his Building Futures apprenticeship more than 10 years ago working on a Brown construction site; he  continues to work on University projects, contributing currently to the future Performing Arts Center, slated to open in 2023.

“The young men and women that dedicate themselves daily, to get up, to show up, to learn more, to move the work, that's who you are all investing in, and I'm one of them,” Gatlin said. “To all of you who do what you do to make this program possible, thank you.”

Earlier in the week, Building Futures Executive Director Andrew Cortés had joined Paxson and Sabitoni at Brown to sign a new five-year agreement to formally commit Brown to employing all-union labor for major campus construction projects and extend its pledge to employ Building Futures apprentices.

At the anniversary celebration three days later, Cortés reflected on the nonprofit's 15-year history and success in growing the unique workforce development model, which it is now extending into new industries, including health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and fisheries and marine trades

“Registered apprenticeship provided us the how,” Cortés said. “How to address the existing skills gap and the need for more workers going forward. It's the connection point between employers, unions and the community and the foundation of Building Futures. We based our nonprofit on leveraging and expanding this exceptional workforce development model, and here we are 15 years later because registered apprenticeship works.”