William Griffin III, a member of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 union, had the honor of introducing Vice President Kamala Harris when she recently spoke in Philadelphia about the value of union labor.

Griffin entered the union through PennAssist, a program co-sponsored by LF Driscoll, the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, and the General Building Contractors Association through the Construction Apprentice Preparatory Program (CAPP). This pre-apprentice program introduced Philadelphians to the construction building trades and placed those who passed the apprenticeship exams with companies working on the $1.6 billion Pavilion project.

From Penn Medicine News:

It’s been a whirlwind of opportunities since Griffin participated in PennAssist, a 12-month program to help young graduates of Philadelphia’s career and technical high schools and city residents — especially minorities and women — enter the building trades. The initiative, which ran between 2017-2020, was a collaboration of Penn Medicine, the School District of Philadelphia, Penn’s construction firm LF Driscoll, and the Philadelphia Building Trades Council. Griffin worked from 2018-2019 with the subcontractors building the $1.6 billion Pavilion at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). PennAssist matched the young people in the program with the most suitable trades based on a skills assessment and a training boot camp. Griffin primarily worked with the electricians but said he gained exposure to many other construction trades.

“There were electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers, carpenters, painters, insulators, boilermakers, foremen … everyone was working together to make sure that this job got completed,” Griffin said. “We were learning cutting-edge technology and using a lot of new tools and methods, because the technology in that hospital is so advanced. It felt really good to be a part of it.”

It wasn’t just on-the-job experience. Two evenings a week, instructors with the Construction Apprentice Preparatory Program (CAPP) led the PennAssist participants in classes to learn the necessary math and other skills to pass the apprenticeship tests required to join their respective trade unions.