There are plenty of big construction projects on the horizon in Western New York, with Amazon’s new distribution center in Niagara City and the new Buffalo Bills stadium in Orchard Park topping the list.
These projects, which represent more than one and a half billion dollars in total investment, will require a lot of construction workers.
Helping area residents get started in the search for construction jobs is central to the mission of the Independent Contractors Guild of WNY, a workforce training organization now based in Niagara. Falls.
On Friday, the guild celebrated the success of its latest group of graduates which, for the first time in the organization’s history, included a resident of Niagara County.
Founded in 2017, ICG is a registered nonprofit with the New York State Department of Labor Apprenticeship Program. The organization partners with local businesses and contractors in an effort to fulfill its core mission of connecting employers who need employees with area residents who can handle the work.
As part of its efforts, ICG is offering a 17-week Skilled Construction Trades course that provides participants aged 16 and up with an introduction to various aspects of 17 different trades, including welding, plumbing, carpentry and electrical work. Completion of the pre-apprenticeship program allows graduates to move on to full apprenticeships, real jobs with local employers or, in some cases, businesses they start and operate themselves.
ICG director Frank Daniel, who has more than 40 years of experience in the construction industry, said that as well as providing introductory on-the-job skills, the program is designed to help participants understand the basics of getting and keeping a job, including the importance of showing up on time and making an honest effort.
“We’re trying to prepare them not only to be a beginner, but also to be able to prepare for a job and get started quickly, because these companies don’t really have time to train,” Daniel said.
Right now, with Amazon, Bills Stadium and other projects looming, Daniel said the demand is high for quality people who can do quality work in a variety of fields. Currently, he said welding and millwright work tops the list of needs identified by companies that work with ICG.
“The industry needs these kinds of programs to fill these kinds of jobs going forward,” he said.
Friday’s graduation ceremony, held at the TREC Business Incubator on Niagara Street in Niagara Falls, celebrated the organization’s fourth class, which included three area residents, including Aaron Russell, Philip Ward and Joe Riggi IV, graduating class of 2021 from Niagara- Wheatfield High School. Riggi is the first resident of Niagara County to take the Construction Laborer course.
The 19-year-old Wheatfield resident said the course helped him better understand the basics of construction, which he hopes will help him pursue his long-term goal of leading a day his own business.
“Eventually one day I want to start a business,” he said.
Ward, 29, of Buffalo, had his heating and air conditioning services certification before entering ICG’s pre-apprenticeship program. He says he joined because he wants to diversify his skills so he can get more involved in the home building business. He once started his own construction company called WBS+P Construction with his girlfriend and fellow ICG graduate, Shannon Howard. Now that he has completed the ICG program, he will also begin working as a Level 2 Service Technician at Gold Wynn Residential.
Ward said he was most interested in the carpentry portion of the ICG program, adding that he hopes it will help him become more involved in the home building industry in Western New York in the future.
“It’s just amazing to create something out of nothing,” he said, referring to the process of building homes.
ICG started in the city of Buffalo before moving its operations in July to its current location at 8525 Porter Road, Niagara Falls.
ICG officials say one of their goals going forward is to enroll more Niagara Falls and Niagara County residents in their programs.
ICG Education Director Renee Daniel said a lot of construction is brewing in the Falls area and her organization doesn’t want Falls residents to look aside and watch while jobs on construction sites go to people who live outside the area.
In general, she said, demand is high right now for trained people with the skills entrepreneurs want.
“The construction workforce needs a workforce. It is vital. We get calls every day asking ‘who do we have? who do you have ”, Did she say.
IGC’s pre-apprenticeship program is offered in sessions that run throughout the year. Each session can accommodate up to 40 participants.
Frank Daniel said the COVID-19 pandemic has limited his organization’s ability to provide training, but the program is beginning to return to pre-COVID practices and participation.
“It derailed everything,” Daniel said, referring to the pandemic. “We stayed alive and kept doing it, but we didn’t have a lot of participation in terms of classroom training.”
According to Dawn Cody, Senior Employment and Training Coordinator for Niagara County, financial assistance is available for Niagara County residents who wish to enroll in the ICG program. Cody said the county, using federal funds provided by the state, can provide full financial assistance to two adult participants in the ICG program. For more information, Niagara County residents are encouraged to contact Cody’s office at 716-278-8182.
For more information on enrolling in the Trades in Construction course or other programs offered by ICG, call Frank Daniel at 716-464-3442 or visit the organization’s website at www. icgofwny.com.