Urban League gets $300K to expand jobs program

Posted at 5:13 PM, Oct 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-01 17:13:28-04

CINCINNATI — The Greater Cincinnati Urban League is expanding a successful training program thanks to an extra infusion of cash from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

ODOT is giving the Urban League's Construction Connections $300,000 this year. That's up from the agency's usual commitment of $250,000 per year.

Ohio Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, announced the amount at the Urban League's offices in Avondale Thursday, just a month after the organization unveileda report that showed stark disparities for Greater Cincinnati's black residents. Construction Connections is a pre-apprenticeship training program that prepares participants for careers in the construction industry.

Reece noted that Construction Connections could train local residents in time for them to get jobs and help build ODOT's Martin Luther King interchange project in Avondale, which suffers from high unemployment.

"We have a great opportunity if we can connect the building dollars we have with the rebuilding of a community and jobs," she said.

ODOT has been the sole funder for the Construction Connections program since 2010, said Donna Jones Baker, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio.

The money comes from federal job training dollars and is designed to target women, minorities and disadvantaged individuals, ODOT's Kim Watson said.

In past years, the Urban League has gotten $250,000 per year, which has paid for the five-week program.

Because ODOT boosted the money this year, the Urban League can extend the program to six weeks and train more people, she said.

Before people take part in Construction Connections, they must complete the Urban League's three-week job readiness program known as SOAR.

The next SOAR program will start in early November, with the next Construction Connections class beginning at the end of that same month, said Brian Harris, who oversees the programs. The ODOT money also will pay for additional classes in 2016, he said.

Since 2010, 268 people have enrolled in Construction Connections, and 250 have graduated. A total of 199 of them are employed.

For more information on Construction Connections, click here or go to

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for more than 17 years. To read more stories by Lucy, go to To reach her, email Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.