COLONIE: Building a better future

"This is the opportunity to turn that trend around. Here in the Capital District, things have already begun to turn around," said Dick Dana, ARISE president.

The area is ahead of most trends and efforts in metropolitan areas around the country, he said. But with millions in construction projects expected to break ground in the coming years, the time to begin training a workforce is now, he said.

ARISE is calling on leaders to implement the full amount of workforce development dollars or one-half of 1 percent of federal highway funds coming to the state.

Since 2005, Albany County's work center has helped place dozens of low-wage workers on the path to well-paying jobs, with good benefits and a secure future. That was made possible with $72, 900. If more money backed the program, and helped to begin similar programs throughout the study area, the number of new workers could be much higher, he said.

"I really believe that this is a good thing and provides an opportunity for people that don't have the proper upbringing and education to find a normal job," said Ramone Clow, 25, of Albany.

Clow has been in the Albany County program for four weeks. He is hoping to complete it and land a plumbers union apprenticeship. It would pay better and he would get better benefits than his previous job of installing tires for $12 per hour. It wasn't bad money, he said. But he would have been stuck at that wage for a good part of his life.

To date, the Capital District Worker Center has helped 50 people land better, well-paying jobs in the area's construction fields. This year, the center will extend its 12-week program to 75 candidates. In February 2008, the program's funding runs out and the hope is that more than just the county and nonprofits will be footing the bill. Advocates hope to see some of the one-half of 1 percent of federal money sent to the state.

ARISE is looking to future construction on the scale of an Albany County Convention Center, the I-87 bridge over Watervliet Shaker Road, and the much larger Route 7 redesign and reconstruction of that bridge. That project has been slated to begin next year.

"It's not a black issue, it is not a white issue. It's a reality issue," said the Rev. Victor Collier, ARISE vice president.""

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