Assemblymember Rivera, Senator Fernandez Announce Investment in Program to Expand Career Opportunities for New Americans Entering the Construction Trades

$30,000 grant awarded to Jewish Family Services of Western New York, administered by the Office of Children and Family Services for creation of pilot program

Buffalo, NY – Today, Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera and State Senator Nathalia Fernandez announced the creation of an exciting new program to support new Americans and refugees prepare for careers in the construction trades. A $30,000 grant, awarded to Jewish Family Services of Western New York, will serve as seed funding for the pilot training program to be offered in conjunction with Laborers Local 210.

The training program is financed using legislative initiatives money made available by New York State and administered by the Office of Children and Family Services. It will connect new Americans and refugees with Laborers Local 210, a union with over 900 member workers in Erie County alone. Construction craft laborers primarily work in the trades doing jobs such as brick masonry, hazardous waste abatement, gas, water, and sewer pipe repair and installation, concrete pouring, and road, bridge, and building construction.

Trained professionals from Laborers Local 210 have worked on important regional projects in the community such as the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, DL&W Terminal, Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel, and such buildings as the Rath County Office Building and Main Place Tower. Moving forward, the new Highmark Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, will be a significant project on which members will work. Construction craft laborers will also play a major role in the expansion and renovations at the West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center and at both University at Buffalo and Buffalo State University.

Jewish Family Services of Western New York (JFSWNY) is uniquely qualified to take on this new partnership with local labor. Their Refugee and Immigrant Center for Healing (RICH) focuses on healing, recovery, and empowerment. Already in this space, they provide support services in a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive way, creating a system of support that addresses the whole person and their life experiences. JFSWNY serves over one thousand people annually from Niagara Falls to Buffalo.

Typically, a skilled Construction craft laborer apprentice program combines field work and related training, up to four thousand hours total. Participants must be able to lift and carry ten (10) ninety-four (94) pound sacks twenty-five (25) feed and restack to a height of approximately fifty-four inches. They must also be able to load with a shovel one-half (1/2) cubic yard of material into a wheelbarrow, wheel thirty (30) feet and deposit into container, work at heights of ten (10) feet or greater, and work in confined spaces1. The new program will combine the necessary physical requirements with culturally sensitive modules and improved language access/translation.

According to a June 2023 report from the American Immigration Council, refugees who are also entrepreneurs participate in the construction industry at a rate of only 8.4% - which amounts of about 15,800 people. With more support, language access, training, and a clear pathway, the rate of construction trade participation and entrepreneurialism will grow2.

As Buffalo’s economy grows, new Americans and refugees will have improved access to careers in the construction trades and a stable, middle-class income thanks to the funding secured by Assemblymember Rivera for this new training program.

Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera said, “I fought for this funding to empower new Americans and reduce the barriers for refugees to join the construction trades. This investment will lay the foundation to prepare refugees and new Americans for careers which will support their family, their education goals, and help them achieve the American dream right here in Western New York. Today’s partnership between Laborers Local 210 and Jewish Family Services of Western New York will train tomorrow’s labor leaders.”

Senator Nathalia Fernandez said, “A strong middle class is the backbone of our community, both here in Buffalo and back home in the Bronx. I strongly support this program to bring diverse experiences, voices, and skills to the construction trades. I thank Assemblymember Rivera for bringing state resources back to communities that need it most as I continue to the do the same for the Bronx and Westchester.”

Senator Sean Ryan said, “When refugees make their way to Buffalo, providing them with support is critical to ensuring their long-term success. This funding for Jewish Family Services will ensure high-quality job training is available for refugees who are looking to begin a new life, and a new journey, here in Western New York. I thank Assemblyman Rivera for working diligently to secure this much needed funding.”

Peter DeJesús, President of Western New York Area Labor Federation said, “The Western New York Area Labor Federation always stands ready to support initiatives like this one from Assemblymember Rivera and Senator Fernandez, because they use the vast resources of our state to invest in local organizations and leaders doing the work that matters most. Buffalo stands at the forefront of the labor movement, not just because of our history but for the actions we continue to take today to empower our workforce. The diversity of our workers is our strength, and I am eager to see this program succeed in connecting New Americans with the skills and careers that will allow their families to thrive.”

Sam Capitano, President of Upstate New York Laborers District Council, said “Construction craft laborers do some of the hardest jobs in Western New York. They make sure our roads are safe to drive on, our offices are built in compliance, and our local businesses and cultural institutions are built to the highest standards possible. I’m excited to see this program expand our training offerings and bring new tradesmen and women into the field. As our economy and region grows, so must our workforce.”

Molly Carr, Chief Executive Officer of Jewish Family Services, said “As Western New York continues to grow and thrive, demand for workers continues to rise. Refugees arrive with a diverse set of skills and we know that they are key to meeting growing workforce demands and keeping our economy growing.We welcome the opportunity to work with any employer seeking to grow and diversify their workforce. Historically, trades have been a pathway to living wage jobs and a ticket to economic stability. As new community members, refugees want to learn and are ready and willing to work. We thank Assemblymember Rivera and our labor partners for their support and sharing this vision of an inclusive economic future.”