YouthBuild LA Grads on the Job at USC Village Construction Project

YouthBuild Los Angeles graduate Marco Sanchez Vasquez, 27, now a second-stage apprentice bricklayer, is one of three recent graduates of YouthBuild Los Angeles who have been placed into good union jobs with the University of Southern California’s $700 million USC Village project. The mixed-use development will provide housing for 2,700 students, as well as retail and academic space.Marco Sanchez Vasquez

The success of the YouthBuild grads was facilitated not only by YouthBuild’s pre-apprenticeship training for aspiring construction workers, but also by the university’s policy of giving preference for USC Village construction jobs to those living within five miles of the school’s South LA campus, as well as the city’s 30 percent local hire requirement.

Small Grants Remove Barriers to Employment
Also key was the university’s Good Neighbors Campaign that, since 1994, has funded university-community partnerships for economic development and other purposes. Now, some of the local community-based organizations (CBOs) receiving Good Neighbors funds are providing grants to building trades trainees who would otherwise have difficulty affording necessities such as union enrollment fees, work boots and tools. Vazquez was the first recipient employed with the USC Village construction project.

According to Theodora Oyie, a compliance administrator with USC Village general contractor Hathaway Dinwiddie, the USC charitable program had historically made awards to CBOs in south LA “to improve the quality of life for local residents.” Now, USC has specified that the South LA Workforce Center disburse that money to cover the cost of union registration fees and construction boots and tools for residents within the five-mile radius.

Noting that USC is the city’s largest employer, Oyie said “it is refreshing to see they are receptive to input and can make it happen.”

She cited as an example one union’s $871 enrollment fee, which she said “is prohibitive for someone who is out of work” and can cause qualified workers to be shut out of good job opportunities.

YouthBuild Delivers
As Oyie reached out to CBOs as a way to reach local residents for USC Village jobs, ECC President and CEO Denise Fairchild suggested Youthbuild. Oyie decided that was a good idea, given that the program’s target population meshes with the preferred-hire residents of south LA.

Prior to being referred to YouthBuild, Oyie was “frustrated that there were not ample candidates ready to embark on construction careers and who could make a go of it.” Learning about YouthBuild convinced her that the program “could be a resource,” and, in fact, “the partnership of two years has been fruitful.”

For example, Marco is not only working hard, taking all the overtime work he can get and – as a result – making more money than his parents or than he’s ever before earned. He also inspired his younger brother, Ricardo, to become a bricklayer. Following training, Oye said, “Ricardo is now on board with the same firm as his brother!”

YouthBuild also is helping Hathaway Dinwiddie by identifying workers living in ZIP codes within the five-mile hiring preference radius, as well as a secondary ZIP code extending into other parts of LA.

“Marco represents the reservoir of talent the construction industry needs,” said YouthBuildUSA Vice President for Employer Partnerships Daryl Wright. “YouthBuild programs throughout the country are working tirelessly to prepare individuals with the motivation and drive to succeed.”

Oyie said she is happy to have “connected the dots” among the construction firm, USC and YouthBuild, leading to good jobs and career paths for south LA residents.

The entire effort has been a “win-win,” she added, noting that local hires in USC Village construction jobs have exceeded 30 percent.

To help that continue, she continues to network with YouthBuild when the firm’s subcontractors are looking to hire apprentices.


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