PORTLAND (WGME) – The new Union Construction Academy of Maine is graduating its first group of pre-apprentices, some of them asylums seekers and refugees from Afghanistan.
Six asylum seekers and three refugees from Afghanistan all graduated Thursday, now ready to join an apprenticeship program.
The four-week program sets them up for success to get a job in construction.
Graduate Nazifulla Safi is here from Afghanistan.
"This is a good opportunity for us,” Nazifulla Safi said. “So I want to start from this opportunity and I want to go up. That's my goal."
Nazifulla Safi now has construction experience in both in Afghanistan and the U.S. He's thankful to be building on his career.
"After I came here, I want to know about the laws, about the safeties, first aid," Nazifulla Safi said.
The Director of Workforce Equity, Sam Boss, says this will help create a pathway for those often overlooked.
"We're working to bring in folks who have been historically underrepresented in building and construction,” Boss said. “We've given them all different kinds of certifications that will help them get into registered apprenticeships."
Boss says they also worked closely with professionals, giving them a head start for when they enter an apprenticeship.
There were no caps and gowns, but after they got their certificates, the graduates celebrated with their new hard hats and gear.
Zameer Safi owned a construction company in Afghanistan. He's grateful for the experience.
"We are really happy because that was a really good opportunity,” Zameer Safi said. “We learned everything. For example, we physically made concrete outside."
The next group of pre-apprentices will start in June.
Organizers say the graduates will also be getting paid in their apprenticeship programs.