Building Brown, Building Futures
Building Brown, Building Futures
Building Futures, Building Buildings
Marc Nixon earned his GED and a place in Laborers Local 271 through the Building Futures program. He’s been working on construction downtown and at Brown, including the new aquatics and fitness center. Credit: Frank Mullin/Brown University
Marc Nixon, a construction laborer working on Brown’s new aquatics and fitness center, is in the spotlight as a career success story. Brown is one of Rhode Island’s biggest participants in Building Futures, an initiative that helps workers like Nixon move into careers in the construction trade.
Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the large words “Honor Labor,” Marc Nixon can’t help but smile when he thinks about his time in the spotlight. Monday night, the 35-year-old Providence resident was recognized by Mayor Angel Taveras during the State of the City address as a career “success story” — something that seemed out of reach just two years ago.
The father of four, Nixon was working a “dead-end job” in a thrift shop when he came to the Building Futures program in 2010. Building Futures is an initiative that aims to help low-income workers move into careers in the construction trade through an apprenticeship program. Since 2007, 147 Building Futures trainees have successfully completed the pre-apprenticeship training program and 100 workers have been successfully placed into apprenticeships at construction sites around the city, including 13 separate projects at Brown.
Nixon had always liked working with his hands and hoped the program could introduce him to the construction trade. “I needed to do something to better my life for me and my family,” he said.
After earning a GED through Building Futures, Nixon transitioned into its pre-apprenticeship training program, where he learned the trade through an “equal amount of hands-on work and book work.” Upon graduating last April, he was accepted into Laborers Local 271 and immediately put to work on construction in downtown Providence. Since December, he’s been working on the site of Brown’s new Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center, the Nelson Fitness Center, and the David J. Zucconi ’55 Varsity Strength and Conditioning Center. He is one of approximately 90 Building Futures graduates and apprentices who have worked on Brown facilities projects since 2008, when the University first partnered with the organization.
“Marc now has a good paying construction job and — more importantly — a career,” Taveras said in his speech. “… His story exemplifies the power of the Building Futures model, connecting Providence residents in need to meaningful careers in the construction trades.”
Nixon says when Taveras mentioned his name and asked him to stand to be recognized last night, he almost passed out. “It was just a good experience and a good feeling. Just knowing that I’m doing something positive that’s going to benefit me and my family – it’s a good thing,” he said.
To date, Brown is one of the state’s biggest participants in the Building Futures program. In the last four years, the University has signed 14 memorandums of understanding with local and regional general contractors, construction managers, Building Futures, and the Rhode Island Building Trade Council, pledging to hire Building Futures trainees to complete at least 15 percent of the total work hours on any given project.
“Brown University continues to be our strongest institutional partner and, since our inception, a key component to the success of the Building Futures initiative,” said Andrew L. Cortés, Building Futures director. “The foresight of the University in addressing key concerns while providing career opportunities for our most disenfranchised residents on their construction projects has been critical for the construction industry and beyond. Their leadership in doing so is to be commended.”
Nixon will likely wrap up his time on the Brown project this spring, but he’s proud of what he’s accomplished here.
“I’ve lived in Providence all my life, so I’ve seen Brown throughout my life,” he said. “I’m just blessed and fortunate that I’m here doing something for Brown and later down the line, I can say “I was a part of that.’ That’s a good feeling.”