Labor leaders, including Millwright Local 2411 Business Agent Robert Jeffers, spoke to the Jacksonville, Florida, City Council on Aug. 10 about the need for city-funded construction projects to utilize local residents enrolled in Registered Apprenticeship Programs.
In the immediate term, the leaders asked that the contract for the proposed $120 million Jacksonville Jaguars football complex include registered-apprenticeship requirements. The city is considering funding half of the construction costs. Two City Council committees have approved the budget, but contract language has not been approved. Jacksonville in experiencing a building boom, and Jeffers encouraged the Council to include registered-apprenticeship requirements in the Jaguars complex contract as well as in contracts for the many other publicly funded projects on the horizon.
“There are millions of dollars around here going into projects,” Jeffers said. “If we could get this language implemented, we can get our future workers trained and spend the money on local families.”
These U.S. Department of Labor programs combine paid on-the-job training with free classroom instruction to prepare workers for highly skilled careers and to help employers recruit, build, and retain a skilled workforce.
When language requiring local workers enrolled in registered apprenticeships is not included in contracts, construction companies from outside the city, and sometimes the state, where a project is being built can use non-local workers to complete the project. Those workers then take local taxpayers’ dollars home with them. “This is unfair to the working families in the city that paid for that budget,” Jeffers said. Providing work for local apprentices also ensures the development of a skilled workforce that can build strong local economies and communities, Jeffers said.