UI Labor Center to facilitate program to teach trade job skills

The Iowa City City Council approved a resolution that will award the organization with $435,239 to carry out a minority-focused apprenticeship program.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

The Iowa City Council is seen at a meeting at Iowa City City Hall on August 16, 2022.

Isabelle Foland, News Reporter

Following approval from the Iowa City City Council on Tuesday, the University of Iowa Labor Center received a grant to facilitate a four-year trade jobs course for underrepresented minority groups.

The grant money comes from federal COVID-19 relief funds given to Iowa City as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act. The UI Labor Center will receive $435,239 to carry out the initiative, which is known as the Quality Pre-apprenticeship Program.

According to the meeting’s agenda, the program will be a five-week course that will meet on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The courses will take place each fall, starting in 2023 and lasting through 2026. 

The agenda states Iowa City residents can learn the skills needed for careers in bricklaying, carpeting, ironworking, and other similar trades in the program.

The program will actively recruit five specific minority groups: women, people between the ages of 16 and 24, people of color, veterans, and people who identify as having a disability. 

The program also plans to partner with other Iowa City nonprofits in the future to create a more lasting impact on the community.

The agenda states that the UI Labor Center will have laptops and a lending library of starter tools to assist anyone taking the course who does not have access to these items. 

UI Labor Center Director Robin Clark-Bennett spoke at the meeting and said she is excited this course will be offered annually during a four-year span.

“So far we’ve been able to provide the program only as grant funding pops up here or there,” Clark-Bennett said. “And so, knowing that we can recruit for a fall course that will happen each year for four years and year-round we can do placement with all the graduates as they’re available to work really means everything.”

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Greg Hearns, president of the Iowa City chapter of the Iowa Federation of Labor, spoke about the positive effects the apprenticeship program will have on the community, including giving people skills to get ahead in their lives.

“This program is going to give people an opportunity to be introduced to something that they may have not thought about and may have not ever dreamed about and put them in position to move up,” Hearns said. “This program is going to provide you with some of the best work you’ve ever had from the safest workers you’ve ever had.”

All city councilors expressed their approval of the program, and Councilor Janice Weiner’s motion to approve the grant was passed unanimously. 

“Not only does it teach people skills and give them a true living wage, but it will also allow us as a community to staff a lot of these big projects within our community without having to bring in people from other states,” Weiner said.

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