New Apprenticeship Program Will Provide Skills in Facilities Maintenance

The Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development has partnered with WinnResidential, Wentworth Institute of Technology, YouthBuild Boston, and the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards and Division of Apprentice Standards to create an an apprenticeship program for Facilities Maintenance Technicians.

The apprenticeship was launched at an event at Castle Square Apartments in the South End on July 17, where speakers representing each of the partners were able to share information and their excitement about the program.

The 18 month, 3,000 hour program will allow people to work full-time for WinnResidential while taking classes through Wentworth Institute of Technology, both of which will allow them to learn the skills necessary to land a well-paying job.

“The importance of this program and why we’re so interested in it is because it provides a combination of classroom work along with hands-on training,” said Brian Kean, executive vice president of WinnCompanies. “Our apprentices will be out in the field actually working, actually getting paid a good wage.”

The apprentices will be able to take what they learn in the field and understand it through what they will learn in the classroom, Kean added.

Boston-based Winn Companies is the largest provider of housing in the city of Boston, as well as the largest provider of affordable housing in the United States, according to Kean.

He said that the company has “tons of jobs” and “plenty of openings,” but they are unable to fill them because there aren’t enough qualified people to take them. Through this apprenticeship, people would learn the skills necessary to fill these open positions.

“We’re really excited about this apprenticeship program that we’re kicking off with Winn,” said Michael Chavez, project development manager at YouthBuild Boston. He said that they’ve offered a free apprenticeship program for the carpenter’s union, but this is the first time that YouthBuild Boston is a leader for a full apprenticeship program.

YouthBuild Boston aims to provide young adults with the skills and experience they need to be successful in the building trade, as well as the “essential social, vocational, academic and life skills necessary to navigate a positive pathway to self-sufficiency and neighborhood responsibility,” said Chavez.

William McKinney from the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards says that apprenticeship has grown over the past three years, and that though Massachusetts has the highest percentage of people with a college degree, college isn’t for everybody.

“That’s where we come in to work with companies to develop apprenticeship programs,” he said.

“We want to make sure in Massachusetts that everybody who wants to get a job, a good paying job, has that opportunity. So whatever barriers that we have to break down in government, that’s what we’re all about.”

The apprentices will be learning about such things as HVAC systems and choosing the correct plants for landscaping. They will be taking five courses at Wentworth that could be used towards a Bachelor’s degree at the end of the program should they choose to take that path, and Wentworth will be there to support and guide their decision-making process.

“We’re happy to be providing some of the coursework that will go into your apprenticeship program,” Deborah Wright, a Dean at Wentworth Institute of Technology told the apprentices who were present. “I always think of Wentworth being able to meet our students or meet members of the community wherever they are in their educational process.”

The City of Boston has helped to make this program free of charge for the apprentices, and the Office of Workforce Development works to make sure that programs are affordable and accessible to residents all across the city.

Trinh Nguyen, Director of the Office of Workforce Development, said that this apprenticeship program is in line with the mayor’s campaign Boston Hires, which is aiming to hire 20,000 residents by 2020 in good paying jobs.

“We are here with you and we will stay with you until you get there,” she said.

When the speakers were finished, the seven present apprentices were invited up on by one to sign their apprenticeship agreements.

Jorge Lopez and Lavar Simpson both said they are eager to learn whatever they can through this program.

“I’m really open-minded to anything,” said Lopez, who learned about the program through his school. He said wanted to be a part of it because he wants to work with his hands.

Simpson said he’s especially looking forward to learning about electricity, plumbing, and carpentry.

He also echoed the sentiment that was evident throughout the presentation: “It’s just a great opportunity.”

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