Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
March 11, 2000 - Issue 05

Builder Will Train Navajo Apprentices
by Diane Velasco Journal Staff writer

Commercial Enterprises will need carpenters for jobs on reservation and elsewhere

A commercial builder has entered into an agreement with the Navajo Nation to include Navajo young people in the company's carpentry apprenticeship program. Commercial Enterprises Inc. agreed to sign on as many as twenty-five apprentices because the company expects to do several projects on the reservation, said Chuck Cambron, apprenticeship coordinator.

But the five-year-old company also is investing the time in its apprenticeship program as a recruitment effort, he said. "We just know that having a training program will help us in the future," Cambron said. "Any company in today's market needs to be preparing young people, to continue to have a strong work force."

One of the objectives of the apprenticeship program is to fully integrate Navajo builders into the company's permanent work force, he said. The high unemployment rate on the Navajo reservation was an important factor in the company's decision to enter into the agreement with the tribe, Cambron said.

Navajo Nation press officer Mellor Willie said unemployment has reached 58.4 percent.

Currently Commercial is training thirteen apprentices, seven of them Navajos, who are helping to build the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the Santa Ana Pueblo. More apprentices will be needed to do two health centers on the Arizona portion of the reservation, and Commercial anticipates several larger projects, Cambron said.

The apprentices will receive up to $15 an hour during their training.

Navajo Nation deputy director of human resources Harold M. Bahe said programs such as Commercial's fit into the tribe's long-term goal of self-sufficiency for the Navajo work force. "We don't have any real significant private-sector development taking place right now," Bahe said. "We have to resort to off-reservation job opportunities whenever possible."

Navajo President Kelsey Begaye wants to establish relationships specifically with off-reservation companies that provide training, Bahe said.

While most contractors bring in their own workers on jobs, Cambron said, Commercial would be willing to use a 100 percent Navajo work force for the reservation projects.

Apprentices must be at least 18 years old. They learn to do metal framing, drywall hanging and finishing, and welding. By the end of the 27-month training period, which includes 144 hours of classroom study, apprentices will be certified as journeymen by the U.S. Department of Labor, Cambron said. The certification card is recognized throughout the United States but is issued by the state government.

Some funding of apprenticeship programs are a provision of the Job Training Partnership Act that is ending this year, as well as its replacement, the Workforce Investment Act, said Elicia Castellano with the state Department of Labor.

Under the Job Training Partnership Act, the Navajo Nation must report to the state Department of Labor, which in turn reports to the state Workforce Development Board, a financial oversight board. With the Workforce Investment Act, the Navajo Nation requested to report directly to the U.S. Department of Labor, Castellano said. The Navajos will administer the programs under the act on the reservation.

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