June 5, 2013
At the Robert Brown School of Construction and Design, education is paying dividends for city students.
On Tuesday, the “Get Ready for Life” program graduated eight student-workers upon completion of an eight week intensive construction co-op program. Now in its fourth year, GRFL operates as a partnership between Unions and Businesses United in Construction (UNICON) and the Rochester City School District. In addition, GRFL received a $35,000 grant from the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency.
The essential thrust of GRFL is to deliver the missing requisites to students within the city district necessary for success in the world of construction and work, as well as to effectively create a pipeline of qualified, motivated individuals to fill the projected vacancies in the growing construction industry.
Union trained and certified tradesman work alongside the students—providing instruction and mentorship—in this fast-paced and rigorous program. Together they build houses later reassembled and sold at market value throughout the city. So far students have been prepared to hit the ground running as they exit high school and pursue their dreams.
Last year, program graduates entered a variety of tracks. One student immediately applied to the Carpenter’s local. He passed the entry test, scored well on the interview, and as soon as he turned 18 entered their apprenticeship. He now works for Manning Squires Hennig Co., Inc. Another found a job with Tambe Electric, a local industry partner. Two students entered post-secondary education, one to SUNY Brockport and another to MCC. Another graduate works with O’Connell Electric during the day and studies Electrical Engineering at MCC in the evening. One graduating student began an internship with Habitat for Humanity. And, this year two GRFL students have been nominated for a new annual $5,000 scholarship UNICON is generously awarding to qualified consruction students to attend MCC or Alfred State.
Not just students find GRFL rewarding. As RBHS teacher Jeremy Boehlke says, “By removing students from the four walls of a classroom, placing them in a real-world work environment, where the knowledge and skills they have learned now apply to their developing experience—student growth is inevitable. Seeing students be stretched, challenged, and respond with more energy and focus to succeed is where my job becomes a dream job.” To Boehlke, building the house has become a labor of love.
GRFL is also responding to a pressing community issue: the underrepresentation of minorities in the construction industry. According to UNICON’s Executive Director, Kenneth Warren, “through the efforts of the Facilities Modernization Board, the Mayor’s Office and RCSD, it became clear that the need for people of color to work in the trades was going to be mandated,” for example in the Midtown project. As Rochester progresses on this front, GRFL is answering the call.
The bottom line is GRFL is working. It is economic development for neighborhoods at its most basic – jobs and career for city residents.