Trades program aims to broaden career options in Cedar-Riverside

The City Council approved funds for an apprenticeship pilot program at the Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center Wednesday.

The Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center as seen on Oct. 24, 2018. The Opportunity Center, which is now home to the city's small business team, will begin assisting residents once a month.

Jack Rodgers

The Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center as seen on Oct. 24, 2018. The Opportunity Center, which is now home to the city’s small business team, will begin assisting residents once a month.

Emma Dill

The Minneapolis City Council approved a 2019 City budget allocation Wednesday for the Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center’s first-ever apprenticeship program.

The pilot program will prepare participants to enter the workforce as electricians, plumbers and pipe-fitters, among other trades. Cedar-Riverside leaders say they hope the program will appeal to the community’s young people and give those without a college degree a path to a well-paid job.

The Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development will match the $50,000 budget allocation, directing a total of $100,000 to the program. The money will go toward establishing the program and creating a partnership between the community and trade unions around the city.

Ward 6 Council member Abdi Warsame, who advocated for the budget funding, said the program will introduce new career opportunities to Cedar-Riverside and the East African community.

“There’s hardly any Somalis or East African members who are in the trades, hardly any,” Warsame said. “The [Cedar-Riverside] community’s not aware of these jobs. We don’t have an uncle who’s an electrician or a father who’s a plumber, so creating this awareness is a very important step in integrating the community.”

The apprenticeship programs will introduce the “earn as you learn” model of job training to the community, Warsame said. Program participants will earn money as they are trained in their apprenticeship.

“It’s a fairly old model in this country, but it’s fairly new to the East Africans,” Warsame said.

Saeed Bihi, the opportunity center’s manager, said this model will allow community members to earn money to support their families while receiving training to land a higher paying position. The program also addresses the center’s broader goals for the community.

“This apprenticeship combines two objectives that the center has which was to increase the educational opportunity and to decrease the unemployment,” Bihi said.

In the future, Bihi said he hopes the opportunity center will extend the apprenticeship program to local high school students.

Amano Dube, director of the Brian Coyle Center, said the program will complement the center’s purpose in serving the community. However, Dube said community members will want to be assured of a job when they begin the program. Past programming has not always resulted in job offers for residents, he said.

“They want somebody who can give them that training but also take them to the workforce, to employers who can take them based on that skill,” Dube said. “Then you make complete change of people’s lives.”

Warsame said the program will help trades replace an aging workforce, calling the training a “win-win for everybody.”

“We want to create … a pathway, through the opportunity center to the many different jobs that the trades program offers,” Warsame said.

In addition to money for the trade programs, Ward 6 also secured another $80,000 to help start a 4-H Club program in the community and $43,000 will help in hiring two part-time youth workers.