The Fort Wayne Urban League’s BUILD four-week program has so far graduated 59 students who have landed jobs in the construction field, after learning entry-level skills at the nonprofit located at 2135 Hanna Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46803.
BUILD, which stands for Building Trades-Urban League Indiana Plan for Local Diversity, has prepared four classes of day-one ready laborers, electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers, etc. “We even have an elevator operator [as a graduate],” BUILD director Leroy Jackson Sr. said.
BUILD graduates are prepared; even their paperwork is on point. “I get from them everything we need for their program, before they enter. That way, when they get ready, I’m not worried about them falling through the cracks,” Jackson said. “Before they leave, I give them a packet and set up an interview time [for a job].”
The nascent program has a 98% completion rate and is currently instructing its fifth class of 18 students. The current class is “very energetic and they are very smart group. One person in the class is an engineer. We have a bunch people who are CNAs,” Jackson said.
BUILD accepts anyone willing to learn for the program. Eleven current students (27 of their graduates) were previously incarcerated.
“When we started this, nobody thought this would work because we were taking people off the streets and out of their boxes (as they say), putting them in something different,” Jackson said. “They didn’t think we would complete the first class.”
The classes double as how-to-build and how-to-live sessions. Instructor Royal Jordan, the Urban League UYEP Project Director, talked about finance and extoled the differences between “a want” and “a need” through reiteration.
“Most everybody here has business aspirations,” Jordan said, about how long-term goals must fuse with short-term spending. In other words, you have to say no.
Student Talisha McCurrie’s long-term goals included a visit to Kenya; Jordan advised McCurrie to save now and spend less. “You can’t go Kenya without saying no,” Jordan said.
The topic turned to character, with new instructor and FWIS publisher John Dortch, and how responsible should one be helping family members who seemingly can’t help themselves.
“You can’t just cut your family members off,” student Kira Cook said, before the room erupted with laughter, commentary and hilarious alternatives to the relatable problem.
“You ever hear of feeding everyone will a long-handed spoon,” student Roosevelt Moore said, in response to Cook’s statement.
Student Michael Hardy specifically wanted to know about carpentry. Carpenters make $26/hour; an apprentice (what Hardy will be once he completes the BUILD course) gets 40% of that.
Student LaQuale Paige spoke about improving Eden Green. “I want to build houses on the Green. I want to do that. There’s nothing like being in the same room with your own people to give you encouragement.”
BUILD is currently accepting students for their sixth class, starting the first week of July 2018. Prospective students should apply two weeks before for a spot. One needs a high school diploma or GED, a car, driver’s license, birth certificate and a social security number/card.
BUILD at the Fort Wayne Urban League, 2135 Hanna Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46803, 260.745.3100.