Shaquille O'Neal assists launch of NJ construction training program
- NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, together with the city of Newark, NJ, has launched Project IMPACT, a program that will try to secure spots in local labor unions for city residents, according to NJ Advance Media.
- Through the city's Office of Affirmative Action, applicants will receive advice on obtaining their GED, preparing for aptitude tests and developing other skills necessary for them to earn a card with local carpentry, plumbing and construction unions.
- Mayor Ras J. Baraka and other officials said they have been trying to put Newark residents to work since Baraka took office last year by passing legislation requiring contractors to hire a certain number of residents and by working with prisoner training programs to help find them jobs once released, many times on construction projects in the city.
Although program participants are excited by the prospect of high-paying union jobs, city officials said the priority is getting those people well trained.
"No matter how much of a foundation we lay out... unless we prepare them for what's to come, none of our efforts will work," Deputy Mayor for Employment Rahaman Muhammad said.
The program is very much in line with the Associated General Contractors of America’s Workforce Development Plan, which focuses on ways to bring more workers into the construction industry before older workers age out.
O’Neal, who has backed several development projects in Newark and is a self-proclaimed fan of the city, according to Advance Media, will also benefit if Project IMPACT is able to produce qualified construction workers, as the plan involves many of those program graduates going to work on his long-delayed $68 million residential tower.
Boraie Development, the construction manager and O’Neal’s partner in the skyscraper project, is two years behind schedule and claims the reason is rising construction costs. So, in order to get work rolling, the Newark Municipal Council approved a payment of $2 million to them last month using car rental tax revenue. The project also received a 30-year tax abatement from the city.
The 23-story building, known as One Riverview and the previous site of a school, will be the first residential tower built in Newark since 1962, and O’Neal said he plans to move into the top floor when it is complete.
"Newark made me who I am. I just love this city. I've been coming back here since 1995," he said. "I'll be here."
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