“Best moment of my life”: Dion reflects on apprenticeship graduation

Nov 29, 2023   |  By Emily Montgomery

Reflecting on his graduation this past summer from the Building Futures Program, an apprenticeship program for the construction industry, Dion said that having his father present meant everything to him.

“My dad drove all the way to Columbus to see me graduate,” Dion said. “His smile when I showed him my certificate was the best moment of my life. I have some accomplishments, but him telling me how proud he was of me is top of the list.”

Dion first became a participant with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) in late 2022. Then, a CEO staff member referred him to the Building Futures Program, run by the Columbus Building Trades Council. According to their website, the 12-week program “equips members of underserved communities with life skills and teaches them basic construction skills in order to prepare them for a building trades apprenticeship.”

Dion began the program in May 2023, becoming the first person to go to Building Futures from CEO.

Growing up, Dion’s father owned his own businesses, including a construction company. Dion says he learned many skills, such as plumbing, drywall, painting, and landscaping, working with his dad.

“Even though I didn’t want to do it growing up, now at the age of 40, I’m very grateful he instilled that work ethic in me,” Dion said. “I don’t think I would have made it here if he hadn’t.”

The Building Futures program felt like a natural extension of his experience.

The program provides participants with a weekly stipend, making it possible for them to keep up with expenses while they learn their trades. Leaders also work to remove other barriers for participants, such as needing a license or vehicle.

Dion explained that the program’s first weeks are focused on life skills and getting to know your classmates. He said this was especially invaluable because the program participants come from various cultural backgrounds.

“I made a lot of good friends in the program that I’m still in contact with,” Dion said.

They take math classes next and finish the program with hands-on training for each trade.

Now that he has his certificate, Dion is studying for the electrician’s exam. After he passes that, he can begin as an apprentice.

Dion hopes that others like him can benefit from a continued partnership between CEO and Building Futures.

“They helped me find a career, but they also helped me overcome barriers to become successful,” Dion said. “These programs helped me find my social self and learn to see and approach people differently. That’s invaluable”