Gwen Jones: Measure aimed at apprenticeships creating opportunities
When the posters on NextDoor aren’t talking about taxes, they’re focused on our lack of high-paying jobs and our high housing prices—and, of course, the latest mountain lion sighting.
These issues are easy to talk about but hard to solve, largely because there’s no one answer, just small pieces. One of those pieces is a resolution that Councilor Heather Harp and I, Councilor Gwen Jones, co-sponsored and helped pass in 2019. Resolution 8356, the Bidder’s Preference Resolution, helped move both of these issues forward by making it worth a contractor’s while to take part in the State of Montana Registered Apprenticeship program.
I am running for re-election to the City Council for Ward 3, and I hope to have your support so I can continue to work on these issues that move Missoula forward.
Our resolution gave a preference to contractors engaged in the apprentice program who were bidding for public works projects over $500,000. The hook? The contractor only got the 5% deduction if they already had an active Registered Apprentice program.
According to the state, apprentices who complete the program earn an average wage of $63,000, $20,000 more than the average statewide. And they now work in fields such as healthcare and information technology, as well as traditional trades such as plumbers, carpenters and electricians..
In December 2022, this resolution was put to the test. A $1.2 million water main project went out to bid, and of the four contractors involved, only one had a registered apprentice program. That contractor got the job. The others took note that the playing field had shifted and they needed to adjust to land big Missoula public work jobs in the future.
We put more than a year of work into listening sessions and other forms of collaboration with contractors, labor unions, and other stakeholders, and it’s gratifying to see the community benefit as the resolution achieves the intended result.
Not only has the resolution created more jobs in our city, it has also helped to position Missoula to acquire federal grants because it shows that we are a forward-looking community and we’re ready to take on hard issues. The resolution helped us secure a Department of Energy American-Made Community Clean Energy Coalition Prize to support the work of the Missoula Clean Energy Coalition in developing career paths to the clean energy sector for disadvantaged workers in Missoula.
The resolution also supported Missoula’s successful application for the Good Jobs/Great Cities program. Missoula will now have technical assistance from the Department of Labor and the National League of Cities to grow the workforce needed to build clean energy infrastructure while helping single mothers become skilled workers with higher incomes.
With this resolution and these programs in place, Missoula is now better positioned to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act dollars the federal government will be granting to communities.
Ever since the 2008 recession, Missoula has needed more people working in the trades. Lack of labor is one of many factors leading to higher housing costs. On a parallel track, good jobs that can support a family make it easier to find housing.
If re-elected to City Council, I look forward to continuing to work on initiatives such as these. I hope I have your support on November 7.
Gwen Jones is president of the Missoula City Council.