Press Release

AFL-CIO, Chris Gardner Foundation Join Forces to Give Students Life-Changing Job Opportunities

Through the AFL-CIO’s partnership with Permission to Dream, high school students in underserved communities will be connected to high-skill positions in the building trades. 

The AFL-CIO today announced a new partnership with the Chris Gardner Foundation. The federation will collaborate with the foundation’s Permission to Dream program to put students with limited economic opportunities on an early path to the middle class. The program officially will launch today at two Detroit-area schools⁠—the A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical Center and The School at Marygrove. As part of the program, the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions and partners will give students in disadvantaged communities the opportunity and support to enter paid, registered apprenticeship programs in the building and construction trades.

The program will be piloted in select cities and schools across the country, where there will be an influx of funding for infrastructure and development projects as well as jobs stemming from the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act. 

“We are thrilled to partner with Chris and his foundation to give more young people the opportunity to build family-sustaining careers,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond. “Far too many young people do not feel hopeful about their economic futures and that is unacceptable. By expanding access to our world-class apprenticeship programs, we will ensure that young people entering the workforce can experience the security and support of a good union job.”

“Simply put, we’re here to encourage students to look at ALL of the options and opportunities in their ‘backpacks.’ We’re here today because what can be must be as much a part of the conversation as what cannot be. We’re here to give today’s youth permission to dream,” said Chris Gardner, founder of the Chris Gardner Foundation. 

The AFL-CIO’s partnership with Permission to Dream will require that students selected for the program maintain a certain grade point average and complete the apprenticeship readiness program set by North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). Upon graduation from the program, students will have the opportunity to be placed in a registered apprenticeship program with an affiliate union, along with a stipend to cover the cost of all tools and equipment required, and will receive assistance with transportation to and from their training locations. 

“There will be no shortage of opportunities to help rebuild and restore America’s infrastructure and our communities, and we want to ensure that more young people play a crucial role in that process. The Permission to Dream program will make that a reality,” said NABTU President Sean McGarvey. “These students will help to keep us all safe by improving our roads, bridges, grids, waterways and more, and ensure America’s competitiveness on the global stage.” 

“Career and technical education opens doors—pathways and opportunities that every student should have. The Permission to Dream program makes career tech ed a reality for students whose schools might not have the industry resources or access to workforce development,” said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. “The programs are win-win, because students who have exposure to these opportunities are often put on a pathway to success, using their apprenticeships and practical skills as a stepping stone toward college, a career, or other programs in industries that provide family-sustaining jobs in highly-skilled, promising fields.”

Founding partners of the Permission to Dream collaboration also include the AFT; NABTU; the UAW; the School Administrators (AFSA); the NFL Players Association (NFLPA); SAG-AFTRA; and Ullico, labor’s insurance and investment company. 

Contact: Danielle Noel, 202-637-5018