2000 and 2003 respectively. The city of Chicago now has a
new scaled-down set-aside program addressing many of the
However, the outcome did nothing to help the recruitment
of minority workers, recalls Leitschuh. Some in the community
were not pleased with the outcome, the press was bad and
emotions were running high. Despite getting the ruling they
were seeking, Leitschuh says the construction industry realized
there was now collateral damage from the legal challenge that
needed to be addressed. “We immediately sat down and started
to ask, ‘What are we going to do about it?’” Leitschuh says.
BUILDING A BRIDGE
Starting out, the association attempted general education campaigns for minorities on the benefits of a construction career.
But it ultimately decided that was too much of a “tiny message
in big media,” according to Leitschuh, and difficult to generate
or measure results. Looking for other ideas, Leitschuh reached
out to Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, and
secured his support.
He then reached out to other minority leaders in the community, many of whom suggested an official program to help
people get started in a construction career. One of them, Eddie
Read of United Services of Chicago, Inc., suggested collaborating with the CCC, which had a construction tech program at
Dawson Technical Institute — part of Kennedy-King College.
Read knew Wayne Watson, Ph.D., CCC chancellor, and the three
of them started brainstorming a potential program to train and
place minorities in the industry.
At that point, Leitschuh realized he needed to bring in the
contractors since they were the ones who were going to make
any program happen. Five members — top executives at some
of the biggest hirers — were invited to be on an Industry Task
Force to explore the program. That task force then sat down with
many of the early players, including Leitschuh, Watson, Read,
the Rev. Anthony Haynes, director of the Building Bridges
Project, and Carl Lattimer, president of the Coalition for United
Community Action — ORTC Inc.
Their initial meeting was a turning point. Because of the
lawsuits and resulting animosity, “There was a lot of undercurrent, a lot of feeling out and trying to judge the sincerity of
those across the table,” Leitschuh says. “Everybody was on
their best behavior, but I think everyone was wondering if we
all could ever get on the same page.”
That apprehension lasted only that one meeting, he says,
and the end result was positive. “In hindsight, it was relatively
easy [to agree on a partnership]; it wasn’t like we were sitting
there re-hashing old concerns and issues. Everybody committed
to a program and realized we all had a common goal.”
BUILDERS ASSOCIATION MISSION
“To be the leading prime contractor-led organization assisting members with improved profitability and productivity.” The Builders Association
offers contractors access to resources that can
help them solve problems and make better decisions about labor, safety, education/training, government relations, communications and more.
Harry McGraw of Dawson Technical Institute gives some final pointers to students as
they head out to be interviewed during an Interview Day.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF CCOP
It was only eight months from that initial meeting until they were
holding a news conference, complete with Jones and Chicago
Mayor Richard M. Daley. In November 2005, Daley — flanked
by representatives of Chicago’s construction industry, minority
communities and local government — announced the ground
breaking partnership between the Builders Association, City Colleges, and the community organizations led by Read, Haynes
The groups would collaborate on an expanded construction
tech program at Dawson Tech — CCOP, which would be a pre-apprentice training program preparing largely minority students
to enter the construction field. Courses would offer training in
five specific trades: bricklaying, carpentry, concrete masonry,
welding and plumbing/fire protection. They also would include
some applicable math training, basic job skills and the ins and
outs of what it’s like to get into — and work in — the construction industry.
Certificates would be awarded upon completion of a one-semester course focusing on a specific trade. The more aggressive students would complete courses in multiple trades, and
could elect to take math or other courses to enhance their marketability. College credit would be awarded for those seeking a
In addition, the Builders Association would organize several
Interview Days at Dawson Tech, bringing its contractor members
to campus to interview students for jobs. Members agreed to
hire up to 50 candidates per year collectively, often sponsoring
them into a union.
To prevent any financial barriers to entry, the association set
up a $25,000 annual fund to help any new hires defray the