A Dorchester-based union broke ground on a new training facility for their apprentices Thursday morning with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Councilor Annissa Essaibi George in attendance. The century old labor union, Pipefitters of Local 537, installs pipes in the city of Boston and continually trains new apprentices.
The new facility, which will be 70,000 square feet, will expand upon the already existing facility on the same site in Dorchester, according to a press release from Local 537. The headquarters of the union and its benefits office will now also be present at the site, making it the first time in the union’s history they will be housed in the same area, Brian Kelly, the business manager of Local 537, said.
Dianne Morad, a spokesperson for Local 537, wrote in an email before the groundbreaking that the current training facility needed to be brought up-to-date to accommodate nearly 500 apprentices-in-training at any given time.
“While the training staff has been doing an excellent job of working within the constraints of the existing building, the time was long overdue to expand the space and bring the infrastructure into the 21st century,” Morad wrote.
Kelly said during the groundbreaking that the new site will help to expand the union’s operations.
“On this very site next year, we will have tripled our training space, increased our meeting space, dramatically increased our hands-on training space and improved our ability to train our members in every way possible,” Kelly said. “We will do so to accommodate our growth, remain on the cutting edge of technology, and learn and perfect our craft to the highest standards in the world.”
Kelly said the new building is vital to continuing their operations and preparing their apprentices to be the best they can be.
“As in any skilled trade, training is a foundation of the organization and we feel very strongly here in Boston that we do it better than anyone, anywhere,” Kelly said. “We train our members to become the highest skilled tradesmen and women in the entire world.”
Walsh said Local 537 has played an important role in strengthening the Dorchester community and the entire city.
“Throughout this long history, this local has played a big role in our community and making sure that our community in Boston is stronger,” Walsh said. “In the City of Boston, our mission is to … expand opportunities, to create pathways to success. You’ve trained generations of Bostonians and gotten them started in a great career path.”
Essaibi George, a Dorchester native, said the work of Local 537 and the work they will be able to do with the new facility will create a better job market.
“This work right here, in our neighborhood, will affect not just the local residents, it will have a far-reaching and citywide impact,” Essaibi George said. “That’s so exciting to me that we are creating more and greater access to jobs within our own neighborhoods.”
Several attendees say the new training facility is necessary to expand their program.
Leo Fahey, 57, of East Falmouth, a trustee of the union and a 35-year member, said the new, updated facility is necessary.
“It brings everybody up to date. This is kind of cramped; we’ve outgrown this building,” Fahey said. “[The new facility is important] to keep everybody up to date, training safety and everything else that we do. We need a new facility to teach state of the art.”
Chauntae Robinson, 34, of Jamaica Plain, a 5th year apprentice, said it was important to her to see Walsh talk at the groundbreaking because he personally helped her get into her position.
“I went through the Building Pathways program and at the time, he was the head of the Building Pathways program so he really pushed for me to get in here,” Robinson said.
Etson Alves, 29, of Dorchester, an apprentice, said the new building will help the apprentices gain a better education.
“We got a pretty good training center here, but everything is not up to date,” Alves said. “Now, the technology is going to be real good and we’ll be able to get a better education here.”