Philadelphia’s building trades offer a rare opportunity: A stable career offering good pay and benefits, with no need for a college degree. But Black people, people of color, and women have been kept out of these unions for hundreds of years.
Today, unions, Black trades workers, and other organizations are working to address this inequity through free programs that aim to help underrepresented workers get in the door.
Known as pre-apprenticeship programs, these initiatives accept people of all genders, races, and ethnicities.
Most programs require that participants be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, have a driver’s license, and pass a drug test. Some help you get a driver’s license but may require that you already have a learner’s permit.
The Carpenters Union’s in-house program prepares participants for its four-year apprenticeship by training them on carpentry math and basic building skills. The program also helps graduates find a contractor to work with. Participants must not have a family member in the union. The program, held twice a year, lasts for three months, and classes are held on Saturdays at the Carpenters’ Northeast Philadelphia training center.