Mayor Mike Purzycki Joseph Jones Celebrate Success of Wilmington’s Future Builders Program
May 17, 2023
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and Joseph M. Jones, Ed.D, Superintendent of the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District, today joined with City and District officials as well as neighbors and members of the public to celebrate the early success of a new program that prepares City teens and young adults for construction industry jobs. The “Wilmington’s Future Builders” (WFB) program, which kicked off last summer and presently has 20 participants, is a partnership between the City and the School District. The program is part of Mayor Purzycki’s Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan, which has committed millions of dollars to improve City neighborhoods and hire local small and minority businesses to help build new affordable housing.
Today’s event took place at a single-family home, located at 838 North Pine Street, which is currently being rehabilitated by Chief Mechanical Construction with the help of participants in the “Wilmington’s Future Builders” program.
The WFB program provides young people between the ages of 16 and 24, who may be disconnected from school and work, with supportive services so they can obtain skills and be hired for construction jobs. WFB connects them with mentoring employers for projects to enhance and restore properties on the East Side of Wilmington where the City’s Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan began last year. WFB offers classroom instruction, vocational training, and on-site experience to participants, all of whom are paid $12-15 an hour while in the program, depending on experience. From mid-July of last year through February of 2023, participants earned more than $55,000 in wages.
“I’m impressed by how ‘Wilmington’s Future Builders program has, in a relatively short period of time, positively affected our young people by connecting them to the support they need to obtain meaningful employment while at the same time helping to transform distressed communities,” said Mayor Purzycki. “We want all of our young people to be successful, and participants in this initiative most certainly will be as they learn to take on more and more responsibility in a work-like setting and acquire the skills that will enable them to begin new careers in the construction industry. The young participants are not only learning skills that will last a lifetime, but they are also learning that building can be a joy in and of itself – and the pride that comes from constructing something new can never be taken away from you.”
The Mayor thanked Dr. Jones and Colleen Conaty, program supervisor for the school district, for their commitment to the program and to Wilmington’s future. He also recognized the City’s many other great partners in this “exciting effort to resurrect this wonderful, historic neighborhood,” including Woodlawn Trustees, Habitat for Humanity, the Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank, Central Baptist CDC, Howard High School of Technology, and Council Member Michelle Harlee, who represents the 4th District.
“This program was born from conversations on how to meaningfully engage students and young adults within the City,” said Dr. Jones. “We spoke of purpose and opportunity and what that would look like for someone. To give them the chance to be a part of revitalizing and building their very own community. The program is about community and everyone sharing the responsibility to help develop, grow, and educate our students. Our goal from the beginning was to transform students’ lives and that is happening one day at a time.”
“The primary benefits of this program combine connection and support,” said Program Supervisor Colleen Conaty. “The needs of the employer for raw talent are matched with an eager audience traditionally challenged by access. These two worlds would continue to struggle to meet, and workforce demands go unmet, without the connection and support this program provides. I applaud the Mayor for attending to the dual needs of his neighborhoods and residents with such a unique approach.”
“This program has helped me out a lot and given me the chance to be myself,” said Darius Vialva, a student from Howard Vo-Tech and a “Wilmington’s Future Builders” participant. “I’ve had a lot of changes over the past year and thanks to this program I’m not the same person I was even a couple of months or a year ago. I’ve met some really great people who’ve been really kind to me. I’ve been staying off the streets, keeping myself busy, and learning new things along the way.
“It’s not always about the money,” continued Vialva. “It’s about the experience and taking that first step toward change. This is the best first step I’ve ever taken.”
The New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District launched the “Wilmington’s Future Builders” program in 2022 with an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Grant from the City of Wilmington totaling about $295,000. In addition, the City has budgeted $100,000 a year in ARPA funds to pay stipends directly to the students. The district will receive approximately $295,000 in additional ARPA grant funding to support the program for 2023.
The Mayor’s Office and the school district today thanked the “Wilmington’s Future Builders” participating employers and partner non-profit agencies, which include:
•Eastern Highway Specialists
•Chief Mechanical Construction
•Wilmington Housing Authority’s Youth Build Program
•The Challenge Program
•West End Neighborhood House
•William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center
Young people interested in becoming part of “Wilmington’s Future Builders” program or who would like more information should contact Ms. Colleen Conaty at (302) 995-8060 or email email@example.com.