‘Building the whole person’

Emerging Builders, a construction apprenticeship program, aims to make life-changing impact in the construction industry.

PHOTO/DeLano Sheffield

Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

As homes are renovated throughout the Northeast community, one organization is working to not only restore these buildings, but also the life of the people who are building them.

Emerging Builders, Inc., a construction apprenticeship program founded in the summer of 2019, offers its employees much more than skills-based training.

Tate Williams, development director of Emerging Builders and Yahna Gibson, executive director, along with their board members, have created a program that aims to address the whole person.

The curriculum goes beyond construction skills, diving into overall life skills, financial literacy, personal development, entrepreneurship, business management, mental health, and more.

In 2018, after years of working in the construction industry and the nonprofit sector, Williams founded CoBuild, a general contracting construction company focusing on residential and commercial construction.

With a desire to make a difference and not just money in the construction industry, Williams and the CoBuild advisory board created Emerging Builders, Inc.

“I thought to myself, ‘what if I took that desire I have to make a greater impact and just applied it inside this industry?’ When I was able to reconcile that this was a way to make a difference in people’s lives, then it clicked for me,” he said.

The idea behind Emerging Builders, Williams said, was to rise up and celebrate builders.

“The vision was celebrating and bringing up apprentices like artists get celebrated in the ‘emerging artists’ conversation, well these are emerging builders.”

From the outset, Williams said the goal of CoBuild was to collaborate with Emerging Builders to build beautiful spaces and develop entrepreneurs in the construction industry.

As CoBuild secures contracts for projects, they are then able to hire Emerging Builders employees to do the work.

Monday through Thursday, Emerging Builders work on a job site getting hands-on experience.

Fridays, the group focuses on The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) construction curriculum to become NCCER certified.

The NCCER is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) education foundation created in 1996 that offers standardized training and credentialing program with portable credentials.

Beyond construction training, Emerging Builders employees also receive Money Smart KC financial literacy training and an entrepreneurship curriculum from CHES, Inc. Credit & Homeownership Empowerment Services and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) sessions from Reggie Jackson with Satori Counseling Services.

PHOTO/Andrew Fellowes Photography

“What is critical about Emerging Builders and what separates us is that piece that we care about you,” said Gibson. “That’s what sets us apart from other construction companies. We want them to develop as a person. For me, we are here to serve them and to help them have a meaningful life and to become successful adults.”

For both Williamsa and Gibson, employing individuals of color is a large component of the vision behind Emerging Builders.

“There’s all sorts of endless data out there to illustrate that this industry is one of the most entrenched as far as male domination and white male domination,” said Williams. “If you trace the history of the trades then you realize that historically, minority men have been excluded from this conversation institutionally. There hasn’t been this well-worn path for men of color to enter the trades and then that doesn’t even touch women at all being welcomed into the trades. For me, in this conversation, women and black and indigenous people of color specifically being given opportunities was critical.”

Gibson, a mother and a grandmother, echoed Williams’ vision.

“When I think about opportunities for [my children and grandchildren] and having been in the workforce myself for 35 years and knowing that the experiences I had weren’t always positive, I want something different for them.”

As CoBuild secures contracts, Williams said their clients are given full disclosure that Emerging Builders will be hired to complete the project, which results in the project costing more and taking longer.

The result? An overabundance of clients waiting at the door.

“I think it’s a testament to the fact that there’s not been many people doing social enterprise and social entrepreneurship inside the construction industry, so there’s a niche we are filling that nobody else is filling,” said Williams. “We are just in a very different category, so even though we charge more and take longer, there are a lot of clients who say they want their money to go further than just getting their house renovated or getting that project completed, so they choose to wait and pay extra. They see that they are able to take that same money and have a double impact by getting their project done and also investing in a job training program.”

Emerging Builders have worked on various projects in the Northeast community and work exclusively in opportunity zones.

Some Northeast projects include 330 Ord Street, a single-family home renovation that is now a rental property; 544 Olive Street, a mixed-use building that will house both commercial and residential and will be the site of Splitlog Coffee; Pendleton Arts Block; and other single-family renovations including 512 Olive and 225 Park.

They also constructed the memorial that was recently placed on the west wall of Snyder’s Supermarket to honor firefighters John V. Mesh and Larry J. Leggio.

A project that Williams said they are very excited to begin work on in the next couple weeks is at 1001 Norton Avenue, a property owned by Westside Housing.

Westside Housing received a grant from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) for low-income housing and Westside Housing has hired CoBuild to restore the property.

The renovation will rehab this two-story home into a space with a completely livable, fully accessible, ADA-compliant first floor for an individual who may be experiencing mobility challenges.

Currently, there are seven individuals employed with Emerging Builders and Williams said he will be adding six or seven more before the end of 2019.

While no construction experience is required, Williams said hard work, a desire to learn, and the willingness to be at work on time are needed.

Depending on experience, employees start out at base pay of $12 per hour and move up the ranks through four levels: associate builder, coordinator position, lead position, and manager position.

PHOTO/Andrew Fellowes Photography

Once employees reach the management position, Williams said the goal is for the Emerging Builder to be able to either work for another employer, start their own company, or depending on capacity, work full time for CoBuild.

Tymeshe Gibson and Christiana McCully are two Emerging Builders who said the program has been nothing but a positive in their lives.

“What is being provided here is an actual service and it’s not just a means of money,” said Gibson. “Just seeing the difference that it’s made in me in three days is amazing. I want to be here, I want to learn, I want to be on site, I want to do things.”

McCully owns her own construction business, Renovations by Chrissy, and said she is working as an Emerging Builder to hone her craft and leave her mark.

“The fact that I’m leaving my mark in each property that I work in says a lot and it will say a lot even after I leave this earth. My stamp will be in that property.”

McCully said Emerging Builders offers her a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

“We get to work on properties that people are going to be calling their homes. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be working with Emerging Builders and seeing how it’s developed me even mentally. I feel very productive during the day. I feel like I’m doing something, like I am making a difference. The days when you start something and you complete it the same day, those are the best days. When you start a deck and you finish it before you clock out, it’s like you hit it out of the park. I love those kind of days.”

Yahna Gibson said for her, the word “belief” is at the core of what Emerging Builders does.

“We believe that our Emerging Builders can be successful. If you don’t have anyone in your life to instill hope and tell you that you can be what you want to be, you don’t believe that about yourself. Part of this mission and what we do is to provide that. We don’t just to teach a trade. We believe that you can be successful and that with the right support in place, you can change your life.”

Gibson said financial resources are always being accepted to help Emerging Builders continue to provide this great service.

To apply to Emerging Builders or donate funds, please email yahna@emerging-builders.org. To learn more about the organization, visit cobuildkc.com or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at Emerging Builders.

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