GARY | Unemployed and underemployed Gary residents descended upon the Genesis Convention Center on Tuesday as part of a city effort to prepare them for careers in the construction trade.
The New Day, New Jobs: Construction Series connects residents with local economic development, business, education and government sectors to prepare them for entry into the construction trades and apprenticeships through the Indiana Plan Program.
“Our focus is not only bringing business to the community but bringing jobs to citizens,” said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. “This is a prime opportunity to bring good paying jobs that will allow people to support their families and allow them to become sustainable members of the community. We want citizens to be able to live here, buy homes here and pay taxes here. By doing that we’re able to gain strength as a community.”
The Indiana Plan is a pre-apprenticeship training program with a mission to address and correct the problem of low minority participation in the building trades. Recent graduates of the program were to be honored during the New Day, New Jobs event but were unable to attend because they were on job sites, according to Joree Richards, executive director, Indiana Plan for Equal Employment.
“That’s the best way to recognize them,” he said.
Richards said the day’s goal was to prepare all the “new faces” in the crowd with the same opportunity. He also said the trade unions are actively supporting the program.
J. Forest Hayes, director of Gary’s Department of Commerce, said the event was not a job fair but a way for the city to address its 14.2 percent unemployment rate.
“This as a platform to highlight the Indiana Plan and direct people to them to prepare a workforce in place as projects come as a result of the new day in Gary,” he said.
Hayes said the end goal for participants is a union membership.
“That’s what will change the dynamic in your household,” he said. “That’s what will change the dynamic in Gary.”
Speakers included Michael Finissi, NIPSCO senior vice president, who hoped some of those in attendance would be part of its future projects including the Schahfer generating station in Wheatfield.
Filling out an Indiana Plan application was Jaquise Walters, of Gary, who said she’s always been interested in a career in construction.
“I want to learn about the trade,” she said.
Fellow applicant and Gary resident Adrian Gray said construction is something he always wanted to get into.
“I’m good with my hands,” he said.