How the Building Futures Program is Transforming the Lives of Disenfranchised Groups in Rhode Island

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No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone deserves the opportunity to work in a field they are passionate about, break free from poverty, and create a better life for themselves and their families. 

Based in Rhode Island,  Building Futures’ pre-apprenticeship program helps individuals from low-income groups to build a rewarding career through paid apprenticeships. 

Every pre-apprentice undergoes an extensive assessment and training before being placed into employment in an apprenticeship program. The program is connected with  the registered apprenticeship system in Rhode Island and helps key industries like the unionized construction trades to meet their need for skilled workers. 

The hands-on training offered through  Building Futures’ pre-apprenticeship program has a transformative impact on the lives of disenfranchised people. 

It’s a story that the CEO of Building Futures, Andrew Cortes, knows all too well:

“I was on my own by the time I was 16, relying on low-income jobs to pay my rent. Luckily, I found carpentry and embarked on a 4-year apprenticeship to learn the occupation. By the halfway point, I was financially stable and buying my own home. I know first-hand how transformative learning an in-demand trade can be for your prospects, and I want to create an easier path for future generations to get there.”

Building Futures’  program graduates are 80% Black, Indigenous and other People of Colour apprentices, and 10%  are female. Approximately 50% of program participants  have been justice-involved or formerly incarcerated. 

“My passion in life is teaching others the key skills that can transform their futures, and revolutionizing industries to create new opportunities for people that traditionally fall through the cracks.”

The program gives apprentices hope for a different future and the ability to make a good living. The high apprenticeship completion rates reflect the enthusiasm and dedication that every participant has for the skills they are learning:

“Our program graduates have an 80% retention rate over our 16 year history, which is much higher than average. Of course, the pre-apprenticeship training itself is responsible for this, but so is the sense of community, connection to future opportunity and the network of support we have created.” 

The support provided by the Building Futures program goes far beyond pre-apprenticeship training. They stay in touch with graduates to help people set up businesses after completing their apprenticeships and give back to their communities. 

“No matter when they trained, every apprentice is connected through the program. It’s a real point of pride – any time one of our team wears a Building Futures sweatshirt out and about, someone will come up to them and thank them for the positive impact the program has had on their life, or the life of someone within their community.”

Building Futures also partners with institutions, such as Brown University, to ensure that apprenticeship utilization takes place  in construction work valued  over $5 million. They have used their expertise to expand their pioneering apprenticeship programs beyond the construction trades to include healthcare, IT, and manufacturing occupations. 

“In the past couple of years, we have gone from 0 non-construction apprentices to over 2,000 across 45 different occupations. Our graduates go on to become homeowners, entrepreneurs, and key people of influence in their industry. Watching them reinvest into their communities inspires us every day.”

The Building Futures program has benefited from funding from Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) – a foundation that builds and supports organizations and causes that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in Rhode Island. 

“The funding we have received from POC has extended our operations in ways we never thought possible. There is so much administration involved in federal grants that it becomes hard to keep operating innovative programs flexibly. Trust-based philanthropy, like that we have received from POC, helps us accelerate the depth and impact of the program at a much faster rate.”

With this funding, Building Futures  and its many programs is looking firmly ahead. For example, they have created a  pathway for incarcerated people to prepare them to join the pre-apprenticeship program once released and have rolled this out in  the minimum and medium security correctional facilities and will soon expand to the women’s prison. 

They are also establishing new training programs to prepare their participants for future developments across the construction industry and beyond. 

“Environmental initiatives, such as offshore wind farms, solar power, and reducing water pollution, are going to become huge in the coming years. We are already offering and developing training opportunities in all of these areas. We don’t want to just prepare our apprentices to have a great career now – we are preparing them to lead the way into the future.” 

To find out more about the Building Futures program and how you can get involved in their phenomenal work, visit https://www.bfri.org/

Sarah James

Sarah James is the Chief Editor at The USA Guardian, specializing in business and technology journalism. With a rich background in the field, she brings a keen insight into market trends and technological advancements. Her expertise, gained from years of experience in various esteemed publications, has been pivotal in enhancing the magazine's impact, particularly in the digital arena. Sarah's blend of academic knowledge and practical experience positions her as a leading voice in business and tech reporting.

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