Cincinnati, OH, May 16, 2017
As an organization committed to workforce development, Easterseals is acutely aware of the challenges individuals face finding sustainable employment. We are equally aware of the challenges employers face finding qualified employees. This dual perspective is what makes us deeply grateful for the businesses who join our efforts to resolve both issues. One of our longest and strongest partners in this work is Messer Construction, and we are proud to recognize them as our May 2017 Easterseals Hero.
Stan Williams, Vice President and Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, affirms Messer’s commitment to the community. “At Messer we believe in building better lives for our customers, communities and each other,” he says. “Investing in and giving back to our communities is at the core of who we are as a company. We live, work and raise our families here, and so it’s important to us that we’re contributing to organizations that are working to improve quality of life and access to resources for everybody in the region.”
No one knows the value of Messer more than those who have experienced that improved quality of life Williams speaks of—people like Jerry Elliott. A complex string of family misfortunes and struggles in school left young Jerry homeless as a young adult. After training with Easterseals’ Building Value, Jerry developed the skills, education, and connections to transition into the Construction Collaborative, a partnership between Building Value and Messer. He has now worked more than two years in the Messer General Laborer Apprenticeship program and is proud to be able to provide for his young family.
This powerful partnership between Messer Construction and Easterseals began more than 20 years ago when Messer Construction leadership first joined the Easterseals Board of Directors. Then, in 2002, the two organizations began working together to create job training opportunities that would meet the needs of companies facing a skilled labor shortage and individuals facing barriers to entering the construction workforce.
This work included Messer’s vital insight regarding the 2004 creation of Building Value. Easterseals’ social enterprise incorporates job training, deconstruction services, and building materials resale. Through salvaging and selling building materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill, Building Value funds paid job training and work experience in the construction and retail industries for men and women with large employment barriers.
Many participants in the Building Value program trained with Messer and went on to full-time employment. The relationship was formalized in 2011 with the official creation of the Construction Collaborative. Since then, 60% of participants have gone on to full-time employment or full-time post-secondary education in a construction-related field. Of those, 65% have been employed by Messer.
The program highlights the importance of mentorship and finding a career, not just a job. “Individuals are given the opportunity to see if construction is a fit,” explains Stan Williams. “They’re getting classroom and on-the-job training and mentorship with the region’s major specialty trade contractors performing work on some of the biggest construction projects we manage in the region. They are exposed to a variety of trades and are then matched with one they want to pursue for additional training.”
Selina Wright is another individual whose life was changed by this partnership. She knew she wanted to enter the construction field, but could not find a company to take a chance on her because of transportation and childcare challenges she faced as a single mother. After time with Easterseals’ Building Value, she joined the Construction Collaborative, then was hired by another local firm. She recently bought her first home.
“If I didn’t have the opportunity to go through this program, I believe I would still be on subsidized housing,” she says. “I realized that Messer and Easterseals really care about seeing people make it. They helped me make it.”
The good work keeps coming. Stan Williams proudly speaks of the future, describing a new iteration of the Collaborative that is directly connected with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “It’s designed to provide a pathway to entry-level construction trades work and our apprenticeship program,” he says. “One of the things that makes this program unique is that it’s holistic—we’re going beyond providing the necessary construction education and training by connecting these individuals with social services resources to help remove barriers to employment, such as childcare and transportation, among other things.”
Thank you, Messer Construction, for seeing the whole person, investing in the whole person, and investing in the whole community. Thank you for being an Easterseals Hero.
Messer is also the Presenting Sponsor for ReUse-apalooza 2017. Learn more about this one-of-a-kind event that supports Easterseals, which is made possible thanks to generous sponsors like Messer Construction.