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CPWR, Trades Take Action in Flint

Bricklayer Admin - Thursday, July 07, 2016

Locals train for lead pipe replacement, construction careers

Hard-pressed Flint, Michigan hit national headlines last fall, when independent researchers showed that drinking water there contained dangerously elevated levels of lead. Residents of this city, economically ravaged by declining auto manufacturing employment, now learned that their children were put at risk of developmental problems every time they turned on the faucet.

While our building trades union partners volunteered to assist local residents in many ways, CPWR connected with the Michigan State and Local Building Trades Councils to explore the possibility of initiating a training program for Flint's disadvantaged workers.

Fixing the problem means replacing the lead pipes providing water service to thousands of Flint homes with safer copper pipes. Fortunately, through funding support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, CPWR has gained extensive experience training workers in the safe handling of hazardous wastes like lead; unions like the Laborers, Plumbers and Operators have a long history of training workers for water and sewer line construction and repair. So CPWR and the trades teamed up to recruit and train Flint residents for construction careers on this critical infrastructure project -- and beyond.

CPWR's Environmental Career Worker Training Program, aimed at recruiting, training, and placing disadvantaged workers in the trades, was already active in East Palo Alto, St. Paul and New Orleans, and was ideally suited to take up the challenges in Flint.

I'm pleased to report that the first class of 10 local men and women have been enrolled in this new pre-apprenticeship program. They have received an orientation to the building industry and its various trades, and are receiving rigorous Hazardous Waste Worker, Lead Awareness, and OSHA. Outreach training led by experienced CPWR and union apprenticeship instructors. Those who complete successfully can look forward to formal admission into the apprenticeship program in one of the participating trades -- and will be ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work rehabilitating Flint's water service.

We have all sympathized with the people of Flint through this terrible year. I'm proud that CPWR and our partners in the trades are able to do something to help as well.

- Pete Stafford, Executive Director, The Center for Construction Research and Training 

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