Grants & Scholarships

Building Futures: Improving lives and our state’s economy

Building Futures is more than the name of a workforce development organization; it's a way to describe their mission and results.

"They didn’t tell me that Building Futures was going to change my life, but it did. This program definitely allowed my dreams to come true."

- Alvin Reyes, a program graduate and state-licensed electrician

Launched in 2007, Building Futures' mission is to meet employer and industry need for skilled workers through the Regional Apprenticeship system while creating family-sustaining career opportunities for low-income diverse residents of Rhode island.

Before Building Futures, Alvin Reyes was between jobs with a daughter to support and college loan debt. He is now a homeowner earning a good salary and one course away from his associate degree. He’s also paying it forward, as a union official who interviews Building Future graduates for apprenticeships.

The impact of Building Futures is evident not just in its graduates but also in structures around our state. Walking through the program’s expansive office and training facility off Kinsley Avenue in Providence, Andrew Cortés, executive director, points out the commercial office mock-ups that have been built as part of the program, as well as an 80-foot section of a highway bridge.

Andrew explains that even though demand for skilled tradespeople is growing, the supply is decreasing as workers age and fewer apprentices learn the trades. Building Futures provides a pipeline for apprenticeship programs. “We expose people to the basics through an intensive five-week program and they see what makes sense for them,” Andrew states.

Program graduate Santana Cartagena found that she was drawn to industrial painting. “I love everything about it. Blasting, priming, painting, and making it better for at least 10 years,” shares the only female member of the painting crew working on the exit 16 bridge at I-95 (route 10). A single mother with two daughters, Santana previously worked at a minimum wage job, but wanted to better secure her future. As a skilled worker, she earns a salary that provides stability for her family and is looking to buy a house.

Santana’s story is typical of the turnaround Building Futures is known for. The 18- to 35-year-olds who enroll in Building Future all come from low income backgrounds, 80% are from minority groups, and 50% were previously incarcerated. Most learn of the program through word of mouth. Andrew notes that they only formally recruit women, who currently comprise 10% of enrollees. With nearly 300 graduates, Building Futures boasts a 95% job retention rate after one year and 80% after 10 years. Its Apprenticeship Rhode Island initiative works to expand apprenticeship opportunities beyond the construction industry.

"Grants we’ve received (from the Rhode Island Foundation) have led to systemic change within the construction industry and workforce development.”

- Andrew Cortés, executive director, Building Futures

Noting diversified funding from federal, state, local, and private sources, Andrew states, “Rhode Island Foundation was one of our first investors. The Foundation has funded some of our direct strategy work and the grants we’ve received have led to systemic change within the construction industry and workforce development.”

Appreciative of how Building Futures has changed her life, Vennicia Kingston, a journeyworker construction craft laborer and member of LIUNA Local 271, says, “I was unemployed, and I came to the program on a hope and a prayer. I say I’ve made it because of luck, but they tell me it was hard work. Building Futures gave me an opportunity, and now I want to give back. I want to start my own construction company and be a role model, and I’m working with Andrew on a mentorship program for 14- to 17-year-olds to expose them to the building trades.”

Andrew agrees with Vennicia’s approach, “We’re creating the next generation of laborers, as well as the next generation of leaders.”