The Laborers’ International Union of North America has a strong legacy and commitment to construction skills education for its membership, and no individual in the New England Region better exemplifies that commitment than LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and New England Regional Manager Armand E. Sabitoni. Over the last year, through the creation of the New England Laborers/Cranston Public Schools Construction Career Academy, he directed the New England Laborers, once again, to chart a new course that will change significantly the manner in which we educate, expand and develop our future workforce.
In early 2002, Sabitoni began a journey that partnered the New England Laborers with the City of Cranston public school system to develop and implement a charter high school to prepare students for entry into the construction and environmental remediation industries. The curriculum developed for the school seamlessly weaves academics and vocational skills throughout its four-year curriculum by applying what is learned to “real-life” personal and work situations. In turn, a more rounded student with increased marketable skills will be graduated.
The first students walked through the doors of the freestanding facility in September, 2002. The fifty-seven students learn basic, high school core subjects, such as math and science, from certified Cranston Public Schools teachers. Additionally, they are shown how to apply what they learn to construction-based projects under the supervision and direction of experienced, highly trained labor instructors who emphasize proper and safe work practices. The method, known as team-teaching, harmoniously pairs teachers and labor instructors in the same classroom, working with students on the same projects.
Health and safety is always an important aspect of construction, and it is certainly not overlooked at the charter school. The curriculum provides comprehensive education and training in the many hazards associated with construction work sites. Students are taught hazard recognition and control, the employer’s responsibility, the employee’s role and the proper protective equipment necessary to perform each task. They also study the various governmental agencies that influence the construction industry and investigate such topics as the safety coordinator’s role on the job.
The New England Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund’s Medical Program Director, Dr. Noell Woolley, periodically provides health education sessions at the school. The classes focus on emotional, physical, intellectual and social attitudes pertaining to family-life, nutrition, disease prevention and control, personal health, injury prevention and safety and substance use and abuse.
Sabitoni says, “The incorporation of a health education program encourages wellness on and off the job while arming our potential future Laborers with the practical knowledge they need to evaluate work place safety and perform their job with minimal risk of injury. Helping young people learn to do it the right way from the very beginning ensures that our future labor force will be comprised of the most knowledgeable, well trained and safety conscious workers in the construction industry.”
As the first academic year draws to an end, the charter school already is recognized by educators and community leaders throughout the nation as a major success. In fact, the school recently garnered additional recognition when the construction industry’s Engineering News-Record named Sabitoni one of the “Top Newsmakers of the Year” for being the driving force behind the charter school. This new and innovative project certainly proves that our Union is in the forefront of education and training for its members.
For more information, contact the NELHSF at 401-621-5355.
[John Anatone is the New England Region’s Tri-Fund Field Coordinator.]