Labor United encourages teens to consider skilled trades

Do you want to earn $60,000 a year, live almost anywhere doing your job and owe nothing in student loans? That is Terry Moore’s pitch to high school students who don’t know what they want to be when they graduate. Pushing students to consider jobs in skilled trades is the focus of Labor United, a six-year-old nonprofit partnership between the AFL-CIO and United Way of the Midlands. Labor United is raising money and obtaining grants to hire five tradesmen to be educators to teach and promote skilled trades in eighth through 12th grades, said Moore, past president of the Omaha Federation of Labor and current Labor United president.

The effort is critical, he said, because “we are going to have a job shortage in the trades.”

If Omaha is going to grow, it needs electricians, fitters, welders and other trained labor, Moore said. The problem is about half the students who take apprenticeship tests fail because they don’t have basic reading, writing and math skills, Moore said. Labor United is already working with Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha on this effort.

Since it was created in 2013, local unions through Labor United have contributed more than $26 million in volunteer work, food collections for local pantries and pledges to United Way of the Midlands to support basic needs and classroom-ready and workforce-ready programs. Some examples are the annual collection of food by postal workers and the raising of the holiday Tree of Lights each year at 90th and Dodge Streets.