6 min read

For too many job seekers, construction skills training is far out of reach. It’s time we bring training to them.

Two job seekers wearing safety vests and protective masks using a Dewalt miter saw in a workshop during construction skills training.

The following article was published on amNY, and was submitted through a partnership with Commonpoint, Building Skills NY and Renaissance Technical Institute.

You can learn more about Commonpoint’s Construction Training and Job Placement, as well as our other Vocational Training programs by clicking here.

For unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers, construction offers a reliable pathway to economic advancement. The industry is projected to grow by 10.4% (more than 40,000 jobs) between 2018 and 2028 as infrastructure needs persist. But the first step on that pathway remains difficult to access citywide: in-depth, high-quality training in the skills employers are looking for. The solution? Bring training directly into areas of need.

We are the leaders of three nonprofit organizations committed to helping New Yorkers who face barriers to employment build rewarding careers: Building Skills NY (BSNY), Commonpoint Queens, and Renaissance Technical Institute (RTI). Together, we’ve laid the foundation for a vital neighborhood-based training ecosystem that reaches historically underserved neighborhoods in each borough. To realize this solution at scale, we’ll need more support.

It will be critical in 2024 and beyond for city and state lawmakers to collaborate on a sensible way to fund this resource. We’ve already used this model to help more than 100 residents of the five boroughs boost their employable skills. With more robust backing, we’d be equipped to help hundreds more local job seekers.

The need for neighborhood-based training is clear. In construction, virtual isn’t an option. Hands-on training is crucial to prepare workers for on-site tasks like ductwork or window frame installation. Plus, given the physical demands and rigid schedules of construction jobs, consistent in-person attendance can help to both measure and improve upon job readiness. Still, regular attendance shouldn’t be arduous. 

For the low-to-moderate-income populations we serve, many of whom are already working full-time, commuting across boroughs can add undue financial and logistical stress to the training process. When we ease that burden, positive outcomes follow. Take Edwin for example: When BSNY offered a version of this program in the Bronx, Edwin was able to earn 6 valuable construction credentials less than a 10-minute walk from his home in summer 2023. By the fall, he’d been placed into full-time employment. 

By making training easier to access with trusted, community-based organizations, we can build a system that allows participants to focus on their coursework and career development.

BSNY’s Construction Career Accelerator program, established in 2021, tackles these challenges head on. Our organizations partner to provide on-the-ground training in East Harlem, Jamaica, and Elmhurst. In 2024, training will expand to East New York.

The CCA program draws on each of our organizations’ unique strengths. BSNY leverages its employer relationships to connect training graduates to well-paying jobs throughout the city. RTI’s comprehensive advanced skills training offerings (including the National Center for Construction Education and Research’s Core curriculum) ensures that job seekers receive the most relevant and of-the-moment instruction from experienced educators. And Commonpoint Queens provides expertise from its similar collaborative training models in tech and other industries.

For participants, the value is clear. This program reduces geographical barriers and offers the same quality of instruction they would find at an expensive or distant facility, but close to home and at no cost. So far, CCA graduates placed into employment have experienced average wage growth of 27% and 80% retention on job sites. 

The workforce development and construction industries stand to benefit, too. The collaboration between community-based organizations and a workforce intermediary streamlines outreach and recruitment and improves cost efficiency. Accessible training also widens the talent pool as construction faces a worsening labor shortage. 

We are proud of the model we’ve built, but the work is only beginning. With the support of local officials throughout the five boroughs, the neighborhood-based construction training model can evolve into a thriving infrastructure that lowers unemployment and expands opportunity. 

About the Authors

Building Skills NY (BSNY) is a nonprofit construction workforce development organization that connects underemployed and unemployed New Yorkers to construction training and job opportunities throughout New York City. Our mission is to prepare more New York City job seekers for construction careers while helping employers find a ready, willing, and able workforce. As a workforce intermediary, we leverage deep relationships within the real estate development and construction industries in our effort to reduce underemployment across the city and ensure that local jobs are pathways to tangible economic gains. 

Commonpoint Queens is dedicated to sustaining and enhancing the quality of individual, family and communal life throughout Queens, through services to people of all ages, ability levels, stages of life and backgrounds. Commonpoint Queens reaches 65,000 people annually through a wide range of services at five flagship community centers in the Queens neighborhoods of Elmhurst/Corona, Jamaica, Forest Hills, Little Neck, and Bay Terrace, as well as more than 65 additional community sites. Commonpoint Queens has provided high-quality workforce development services since 2009. In 2020, we expanded our workforce programs with the opening of the Jack and Shirley Silver Employment Services Hub. Located in Elmhurst, Queens, this state-of-the-art facility is dedicated to workforce development and the social services that enable clients to attain their career goals and become economically self-sufficient. We emphasize training and placement in high-growth sectors that offer “good jobs” and career pathways. Core services include comprehensive work readiness training, a variety of vocational training programs (multiple allied health professions, technology, culinary arts and now building trades), ESOL, HSE and digital literacy courses, job placement, retention support, an onsite licensed mental health clinic, and multiple work supports (onsite digital food pantry, benefits assistance, legal and financial counseling, tax preparation, and more).

Renaissance Technical Institute (RTI) is a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and transforming the lives of adults, the immigrant population, and underserved communities by providing free vocational education and training that materialize in careers in the trades. We are on a mission to educate and inspire the youth and adults with all-inclusive education and integrated vocational training. We fully support each student at our center by providing job-ready skills programs that help them unleash advancement and life-changing opportunities within a few months.