Title: How IUPAT’s Bridge Programs Open Doors to Good Jobs
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) programs play a crucial role in fostering an inclusive work environment where all individuals can thrive. As part of their commitment to promoting inclusivity and diversity, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) has launched its innovative Bridge Programs. These programs aim to improve job quality and create access to good jobs for workers who speak English as a second language. This unique approach highlights the powerful impact of labor-management partnerships in achieving DEIA goals and creating opportunities for historically underserved communities.
IUPAT’s Bridge Programs:
The Bridge Programs offered by IUPAT are the result of a partnership between the union’s training institute and District Councils, regional adult education providers, and workforce development partners. These programs provide English as a Second Language (ESL) services to potential new members, as well as current apprentices and pre-apprentices. The primary focus is on enhancing language skills specifically for the workplace, including industry-specific terminology and communication skills.
To exchange experiences and explore strategies for enhancing and scaling the IUPAT Bridge Programs, IUPAT recently collaborated with key workforce development and adult education stakeholders. The workshop, held in Nashville, brought together representatives from IUPAT District Councils, local contractor employers, government officials, workforce development providers, and the Office of Labor-Management Standards. The event aimed to increase opportunities for workers in historically underserved communities to secure good-paying union jobs.
Innovative Language Curriculum:
A significant aspect of the workshop was the introduction of the Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) curriculum used in IUPAT’s Bridge Programs. This curriculum incorporates a full year of English language skills taught in parallel with first-year apprenticeship skills. What sets VESL apart are its key features:
1. Safety Focus: VESL integrates safety consciousness into the language program, making workplaces safer by teaching ladder precautions and lockout/tagout procedures.
2. Clear Communication: Graduates of VESL can confidently communicate in the workplace, greet colleagues, introduce themselves, and use complex trade-specific terms. This efficient communication ensures smooth operations on the job.
3. Teamwork Development: The curriculum fosters collaboration among participants, encouraging them to coach their peers, solve vocational challenges together, and engage in peer-to-peer learning.
4. Vocational Excellence: VESL goes beyond language proficiency and delves into trade-specific skills. It encourages members to question, understand, and apply their trade, creating a competent, cooperative, and safe workforce.
Site Visit and Takeaways:
A highlight of the workshop was the opportunity for attendees to visit a participating ESL class and witness firsthand the impact of the VESL curriculum. Students from diverse backgrounds shared their personal stories, emphasizing the pivotal role of mastering English in bridging gaps and enhancing their daily interactions both in and outside of the workplace.
Under the guidance of the High Road Alliance, workshop participants left equipped with actionable insights, including recruitment strategies, partner alliances, sustainable funding models, and more. The IUPAT Bridge Programs stand as evidence that DEIA goals can be achieved through effective labor-management partnerships, driven by collaboration among unions, employers, and job seekers.
IUPAT’s Bridge Programs are opening doors to good jobs for non-native English speakers, creating opportunities for historically underserved communities, and promoting diversity and inclusion. By focusing on industry-specific language skills and providing a comprehensive curriculum like VESL, IUPAT aims to bridge linguistic and vocational gaps. The success of such initiatives demonstrates the potential of labor-management partnerships in achieving DEIA goals.
If you want to learn more about the IUPAT Bridge program, you can contact the International Finishing Trades Institute. The future of workforce diversity and efficiency lies in embracing new approaches like IUPAT’s Bridge Programs and forming alliances that prioritize DEIA in recruitment and staffing processes.
 Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)
 International Finishing Trades Institute