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KY Increases Diversity in the Workforce with 'The Construction Pipeline'

Across the nation, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and other construction trade unions have been putting contracts in place that mandate diversity in the ranks. In Kentucky, “The Construction Pipeline” is being viewed as a national model for other regions to follow. 

According to Local 369 Joint Apprentice Training Committee Director Steve Willinghurst, “The increasing use of community workforce agreements, which mandate diversity on many projects, means that we need to start recruiting more minorities and more women if we want to compete and grow in many urban markets.”

This partnership between the Louisville Urban League and the Greater Louisville Building and Construction Trades Council has been helping local residents begin careers in the trades, giving young men and women in the region a chance to participate in an intensive 120-hour pre-apprenticeship program.

One of the successful graduates is 26-year-old Muhammad Al-Bilali who, after a few years of college, realized he wanted to learn a skill more than rack up debt. After working in warehouses in his native Louisville for low wages, Al-Bilali learned about “The Construction Pipeline” and jumped at the chance to become an electrician. “I had thought about construction before,” he said, disclosing a lifelong interest in becoming an electrician. But he didn’t know how to get into an apprenticeship. “It wasn’t anything I was familiar with."

After completion he attended a three-week electrician boot camp provided by Construction Pipeline sponsor, Louisville IBEW Local 369. He was then accepted as an IBEW apprentice. Now in its 5th year, the program has trained 250 candidates of which 111 have been placed in jobs. The program has helped build better relations between labor and the community. 

According to Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Joe Wise, “For a long time labor and the community were often at odds when it came to jobs. With the Construction Pipeline, we’re not fighting over jobs; we are allies in creating them."

In related Kentucky construction news, the prevailing wage was recently upheld as constitutional. In its analysis regarding prevailing wage law, the Court cited 64 Am. Jur. 2d Public Works and Contracts §213, “[p]revailing wage laws require contractors constructing government projects to pay their employees a wage equal to or greater than that which is typically paid to similar workers in the locality where the project is being built.” It then provided that every locality in the Commonwealth is required to establish a prevailing wage rate and enforce prevailing wage law.

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