Construction training facility opens in Meriden

MERIDEN — A construction trade training facility recently opened on Center Street, with organizers hoping to capitalize on the city’s many building projects.

The Construction Workforce Initiative 2 opened at 547 Center St. at the end of July. The non-profit partners with unions to provide pre-apprenticeship training to prospective laborers in New Haven county.

 Originally based in New Haven, the program was attracting mostly New Haven residents, said the organization’s board secretary Nichole Jefferson. State funding requires a broader spectrum of county residents.

 “Meriden is more centrally located,” Jefferson said.

 The organization, founded in 2003, is funded through the state Department of Labor and New Haven county building trade unions. Teachers for the training programs come from the labor unions,

 Since the goal is to funnel workers to job sites, Jefferson said Meriden made sense.

 “Meriden has a lot of construction work going on right now, between the (Meriden) Housing Authority projects, work at the train station, and project-labor agreements with the schools, we’re hoping this will be a good avenue for us,” she said.

 The MHA is spearheading the construction of a residential and retail building at 24 Colony St. that will include a state parking garage. The housing authority is also in the early stages of a 100,000-square-foot mixed-use building project at 143 W. Main St.

 Also, the state is building a new train station on State Street as part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail project.

 The city is also planning to develop housing and retail on five properties in downtown.

 Elsewhere, both the city’s public schools are in the midst of multi-million dollar updates. When the projects were approved, councilors passed project labor agreements that set goals that 30 percent of the total hours on each project would be worked by Meriden residents, 10 percent by minorities, 5 percent by women, and 5 percent by veterans. The agreement also stipulates that the hiring be done through union referrals.

 To date, the Meriden residency goal hasn’t been met at either school, though Jefferson hopes the CWI2 program can help.

 “This is union-based training. Folks trained through us are generally the first taken in through building trades, and the unions get first choice for our candidates,” she said.

 The organization’s move to Meriden also spells good news for general development.

 “They moved into a space that wasn’t fully used and now it has a new use,” said Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski. “The space works well for them.”

 The focus on training is also something Burdelski would like to see more of.

 “Nichole’s shop is more focused on the trades, and we know from all our research that to get into these higher-paying jobs, people need training, and they need training to get into these construction jobs,” Burdelski said.

 The CWI2 program is free to participants who make it through the application process, Jefferson said.

 Applications will be accepted at the facility from Oct. 12-16, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Jefferson said she expected organizers to canvas door-to-door in Meriden as well as in parts of North Haven and Wallingford to drum up interest.

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