Governor Steve Beshear, joined by a host of state, federal, higher-education and community partners, today announced "Bridges to Opportunities," a program to educate and train skilled minority and female workers for careers in construction.
"Bridges to Opportunities is an innovative training program that will help fill a need for women and minority workers in the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges project, but that is just the beginning," Gov. Beshear said. "The use of plural terms -- "bridges' and "opportunities' -- is no accident. The Ohio River Bridges will be finished in a few years. Those who complete our program will be armed with the skills for a lifetime career."
Gov. Beshear presided at a public rollout for Bridges to Opportunities at the historic Louisville Trolley Barn, which will serve as the program's administrative home and the site of much of its training.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has developed the program in partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development, Kentucky State University, Louisville Metro Government and FHWA.
Kentucky State University, the Commonwealth's historically black college and land-grant institution, will administer the program, including recruitment, enrollment, evaluation and basic skills training.
"Kentucky has had a particular interest in creating a program that offers high quality training, in classrooms as well as on job sites, to prepare workers who can meet the increasingly complex demands of 21st century construction work," KYTC Secretary Mike Hancock said. "We want to use this rare opportunity of a mega-project to equip women and minorities with the skills to serve this region for many years to come and to solidify women and minorities in the ranks of many construction-related jobs where they have been under-represented."
Warren Whitlock, FHWA Associate Administrator for Civil Rights, said programs like Bridges to Opportunities are helping to develop America's next generation of highway builders, designers, and engineers. "By helping small and disadvantaged businesses compete, we can keep the cost of transportation projects low, create jobs and deliver transportation solutions to the American people." he said.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the training to be offered through Bridges to Opportunities benefits the entire community. "It takes well-trained workers to build high-quality roads and bridges that will last longer with less maintenance costs for taxpayers," Mayor Fischer said.
Bridges to Opportunities will help enroll participants in existing education and training programs offered by Jefferson Community and Technical College, local labor unions and other institutions. Bridges to Opportunities will help connect trained participants with jobs in construction-related fields.
"I am very pleased to participate in the announcement for Bridges to Opportunity," said state Rep. Larry Clark, Speaker Pro Tem of the Kentucky House of Representatives. "As an IBEW 369 construction worker for over 46 years, I am personally familiar with the career opportunities that a program like this can provide. I want to take my hat off to Governor Beshear for giving all workers, and especially women and minorities, the chance for a life-long career."
Walsh Construction, the lead firm building the Bridges Project's Downtown Crossing, is a supporter of the program. Walsh and its subcontractors are providing information on needed skills and plan to employ participants to fill some of the needed roles on the four-year job.
The program will rely on a volunteer board of community leaders to help recruit and encourage participation in the program. The Louisville Urban League, University of Louisville and Kentuckiana Works are among the organizations providing support and guidance.
The program will feature three training tracks:
Track 1 -- Ready for Employment. Designed for already skilled journeymen. Participants will be directed to opportunities befitting their identified skilled trade or discipline.
Track 2 -- Skilled Laborer OJT/Apprenticeship. Instruction combines classroom, hands-on and on-the-job training as heavy equipment operators, carpenters, laborers, iron workers, electricians and truck drivers, among others.
Track 3 -- Short- or Long-Term Certificate Program. Participants can earn a certificate in construction technology that is equivalent to three hours of college credit and can be completed in six months or less. Or they can enroll in an undergraduate certificate program that is transferable to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System as credit toward an associate's degree or to a four-year institution toward a bachelor's degree.
Once renovations are complete, Bridges to Opportunities will be headquartered at the historic Louisville Trolley Barn, a stellar example of historic preservation that also houses the Kentucky African-American Heritage Center, at 1701 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, in Louisville.
Bridges to Opportunities will be opening operations temporarily at the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training located at 6th and Cedar. Applicants will go to the 6th and Cedar location to make application and complete the assessment process for the program. Interested applicants can also go to the Bridges to Opportunities website and apply through OET's online application process.
Offices for registering and screening applicants are scheduled to open at the 6th and Cedar location by April 1. Program information and online registration is accessible at www.b2oky.com