Working Hard for the Next Generation
October was a stimulating month. I took a journey into the Emerald field and was blessed with a close-up and personal reminder of what Emerald Cities is all about: The Next Generation!
As part of a week-long trek, I participated in the 35-year celebration of YouthBuild, USA, the annual fundraiser for PACT (Pre-apprenticeship Construction Training Program) at the Seattle Vocational Training Institute, and Georgia Trade Up’s graduation of their first class of pre-apprentice tradeswomen. What I witnessed was emotionally impactful. I reveled in the amazing work of our labor and community partners building a stronger, better future for our youth. They are preparing them for good-paying careers — not just jobs — in the construction industry. Each of these programs represents ground-breaking alliances between community and labor, forging new relationships that have historically been non-existent and sometimes, adversarial. Seattle's Business and Construction Trades Council President Lee Nugent best exemplified the quality of this labor-community partnership.
I felt like I was back in church when Lee locked the doors (figuratively) at the PACT fundraiser and wouldn’t let the 350 dinner guests go until we had completely emptied our pockets. “OK,” he bellowed, “it takes $9,000 to train one pre-apprentice. Who wants to donate $9,000?” A hand goes up. Dropping at 1k increments and bottoming out at $50, Lee filled the coffers until even the least of us could contribute more. And, like church and a good minister on a money mission, we felt blessed and grateful for the opportunity to tithe and to go home. This was signature Emerald Cities.
The most rewarding experience, however, was hearing directly from the participants. Ryan's story is included in this month's news. But, I heard from so many more about what these programs are doing for them. They recounted their struggles: drugs, crime, educational competence, single parenthood, women working in non-traditional careers. I heard their dreams: to give my son a better life, to make my family proud of me, to prove that I am somebody, to find a better way. I saw their resolve: to not give up, to reach out for help, to never go back. I saw their tears of joy, their expression of gratitude and appreciation for those that helped along the way; their pride of accomplishment. It brought me to tears on several occasions and it reminded me what the work of ECC is all about.
ECC’s quest to transform our regional economies – to make them greener, healthier, more equitable, and economically vibrant – is not about the baby boomers (my generation). It may not even be about the X-Generation (my oldest son). It is about the Millenials (my youngest son). The Millenials (and beyond) are the generation born for change. They are the generation that will be most affected by climate change. They are the ones who understand and care most about environmental issues. They are the ones who will need careers and incomes sufficient to support the retirement needs of the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. They are the ones for whom inter-generational equity is paramount. We owe them a sustainable economy where we “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” We owe them healthy communities and better lifestyles. We owe them an economy that produces good careers, pays well, offers benefits and dignity. We owe them a high road economy.