The forthcoming I-71 interchange at Martin Luther King Boulevard in Uptown is already an economic driver for the region, producing new jobs and investments in the urban core. Combining workforce needs from the current construction phase with post-construction development opportunities, the project is expected to have a multimillion dollar ultimate impact.
In addition to serving as master developer for the interchange and surrounding “Uptown Innovation Corridor," Uptown Consortium, Inc. (UCI) plays a leading role in ensuring inclusion is at the heart of the projects. When the interchange and corridor were still in early conception stages, UCI engaged WEB Ventures to serve as professional economic inclusion consultants for the growing anchor district. As part of a strategic partnership, WEB worked with UCI to outline a cohesive plan for leveraging inclusion opportunities at each phase of development.
Rather than solely focusing on hiring Uptown residents for temporary labor jobs, UCI and WEB connected local trade unions with skilled service providers – Partners for a Competitive Workforce, Cincinnati Public Schools’ “My Tomorrow” program, United Way, ODOT and various Cincinnati Chamber organizations among them - to create a plan for long-term job creation. According to union officials, this was the first time they’d seen organized trades brought to the table in the formative stages of an inclusion effort.
As a result of these discussions, UCI and WEB created the “Pathways to Careers in Highway Construction” training program. The first-of-its-kind initiative leverages a variety of existing workforce development programs to ensure minority residents have the skills necessary to transition from on-site training to a full-time trade career. Individuals interested in the four-year program are first connected to service providers and an established apprenticeship program. After receiving a full set of trade tools, they start their training on various job sites where they can earn money while completing the program.
After less than two years, “Pathways to Careers in Highway Construction” has already shown successful results. Of the 87 workers employed on the I-71 interchange job site, 19 are minority contractors training with the program. When these individuals complete their training, they’ll be poised to begin a life-long career with a sustainable income, something that may have been out of reach without this multi-faceted collaboration.