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North Hempstead alters code to require apprenticeships in commercial projects

North Hempstead Town Hall in Manhasset on March

North Hempstead Town Hall in Manhasset on March 5, 2012. Credit: Nicole Bartoline

North Hempstead is joining towns throughout Long Island that are adopting legislation requiring apprenticeship training programs for commercial projects.

At a public hearing Tuesday, the town board voted unanimously to amend the town code and require applicants seeking building permits for projects of at least 100,000 square feet to have apprenticeship training agreements.

The programs must be registered and approved by the state Department of Labor.

Supervisor Judi Bosworth called apprenticeship a "great tool for training a new workforce." Skilled tradespeople can pass on knowledge to the next generation, allowing construction to go up safely, she added.

Bosworth said the board wasn't "reinventing the wheel" and had modeled the amendment on legislation adopted in Huntington and Oyster Bay.

Babylon and Brookhaven towns, as well as the City of Long Beach, also have similar legislation in their municipal codes.

Apprenticeship training can take up to five years, depending on the trade, such as ironwork or carpentry, and can cost from $35,000 to $50,000 per person, depending on how long the training takes. Training is part of an apprentice's salary and benefits package, which are negotiated with the contractor, said Richard O'Kane, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

These programs are a path toward developing a skill and building a career, said Melville-based labor law attorney Marty Glennon of Archer, Byington, Glennon & Levine LLP. "This is how you get quality employees on the local jobs, and cost savings," Glennon added.

Long Island townships are beginning to realize the value of apprenticeship programs, which "fine-tune the workforce," O'Kane said.

Contractors pay apprentices lower wages than those of journeymen, who have completed apprenticeships and are skilled in a trade and whose wages are set by the state Labor Department, O'Kane said. He added that in the past, apprentices have been taken advantage of, citing the example of contractors who neglect to graduate apprentices to the next level and instead continue to pay them substandard wages.

To bid on county contracts, contractors must graduate at least one apprentice every year.

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