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Owners, Contractors, Unions Team to Boost Recruits in Chicago Construction | Columbus Ohio Dump Trucks

Ralph Affrunti

Ralph Affrunti, president of the Chicago & Cook County Building Trades Council speaks at the launch of HIRE360 at Magellan Development's Vista Tower showroom Dec. 9.

Photo by Jeff Yoders/ENR

Chicago's biggest developers, as well as leading contractors, area unions and the United Way, launched a new push on Dec. 9 to increase construction hires, especially minority and women participants.

The HIRE360 initiative has a budget of $1.7 million for 2020 that organizers hope will increase to $7 million a year later, said Executive Director Jay Rowell, a former director of the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security and deputy state treasurer.

A grant of $1 million came from the state of Illinois while the rest was pledged by the companies and unions involved.

"What HIRE360 is going to do, and why we believe it's different is because we look at workforce development ... not as siloed activities, but more importantly as an ecosystem," said Don Biernacki, senior vice president of construction at Related Midwest and chairman of HIRE360's board.

Other developer participants are Magellan Development Corp., Farpoint Development, Riverside Investment and Development, Sterling Bay and Lendlease's development arm. Contractors participating include McHugh, Pepper Construction, Power Construction, Clayco, Clark Construction, Lendlease and W.E. O'Neil Construction, along with the

Rowell said he has already hired a staff of six with plans to expand in the city and suburbs.

Rowell said the organization's goal is to get more involvement in both construction trades and the small business entrepreneurship that supports it, with a focus on getting african-americans, latinos and women, traditionally underrepresented groups, into the fold but also stressed that the initiative will take interested applicants that aren't from those groups.

"We’ll columbus oh dump truck work with anyone, but those are the groups we’re focusing on," he said.

HIRE360 Wants to send thousands of candidates to apprenticeships, Rowell said there are 3,500 open slots for apprenticeships in Chicago Federation of Labor unions the area right now. He also said HIRE360 wants to start an incubator to help form and fund new minority- and women-led businesses. He said the initiative will do everything from helping candidates train for tests to buying boots and other clothes necessary for columbus oh dump truck work on a jobsite. The HIRE360Chicago.com website is up and taking applications and giving skills assessments to potential applicants.

"Coaching, mentoring, HIRE360 will be with you every step of the way," Williams said. "I like to say that I'm like your uncle in the trades."

By bringing major players together into one organization, Biernacki and the other board members said they believe they can create opportunity for a long-term pool of new workers. Many of the major players began talking about such a hiring initiative in 2016 when Affrunti and other labor officials went to Milwaukee, Wis., to see what they could learn from an initiative called WRTP/Big Step created for several projects at Chicago's neighboring city. The labor liked what they saw but wanted something on a larger scale.

"They were just dealing with the brewery and John Deere and putting people to columbus oh dump truck work there," he said. "We're dealing with many of the biggest developers and Charlotte NC dump truck contractor here and that makes a huge difference. A lot more people columbus oh dump truck work that way. It's a unique partnership."

From there, Affrunti, Biernacki, Meagher, Williams and several other leaders met at one table and a pilot program that eventually became HIRE360 was created.

"I have attended every meeting in the last 16 months," Meagher said. "The commitment that our union, developer and contractor partners have made is unmatched. And here's something that I've never said before, I am grateful to my industry competitors."

One of the first applicants for the pilot program was Calvin "C.J." Jenkins, owner of Community Playlot Builders, a playlot builder and custom carpentry subcontractor who received a $100,000 low-interest loan from the program to start his business through the pilot program. Jenkins grew up in the Henry Horner Homes near Chicago's United Center and explained that the initiative helped him turn his life around. Jenkins mentioned his upbringing in that dump trucks columbus oh community and his involvement with street gangs and how getting a hand up through the pilot program helped him.

"They didn't just take a person that came from just a low dump trucks columbus oh community and change them," he said. "They took a person that was the worst of the worst, in those days, and now they've turned him into one of the best of the best."