The Building Union Diversity (BUD) program started in 2014 and has since built a successful track record of connecting St. Louis metropolitan residents with the growing opportunities for living wage employment in construction. BUD is also helping to address the growing need in the construction industry for a skilled and more inclusive workforce.


of those that begin the BUD Program complete their training and graduate.


of graduates are employed in the construction trades upon graduation.


In an industry where only 6% of the workforce is comprised of minorities and women…


of BUD graduates are women.


of BUD graduates are minority.

About BUD

The Building Union Diversity (BUD) program is a five-week union construction pre-apprenticeship program, offered at no charge to selected individuals who meet the admission requirements. BUD offers enrollees a comprehensive introduction to construction employment and provides relevant national skills certification training, with a particular focus on job safety. During the program, several local unions also open their training centers to give participants some hands-on experience and a feel for each of the trades.

At the program’s inception, the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) assembled a team of more than eight cooperating joint labor-management construction training programs (known as JATCs) to implement this pre-apprenticeship training program. Once participants have successfully completed training, they are enrolled in the BCTC employer/contractor database. The database serves as a pool of pre-qualified workers at various skills levels and proficiencies and is used by the construction owners and others in supporting the workforce inclusion goals that they are expected to meet and/or exceed, particularly in public-supported construction projects.

Through its collaboration with contractors, Workforce Development Boards (WDBs), soft skills providers and other stakeholders, BUD is able to provide job and personal support services that offer participants and placed graduates the best possible chance for success. BUD also tracks graduate success. This success is exemplified in its 82% placement rate.

The construction training team includes, among others:

  • Bricklayers Local 1 Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
  • St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council Apprenticeship Program
  • Construction Craft Laborers Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
  • Iron Workers Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
  • Operating Engineers Local 513 Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
  • Plumbers & Pipefitters Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
  • Sheet Metal Workers Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
  • Cement Masons Joint Apprenticeship Training Program
  • Floor Layers Joint Apprenticeship Program

Collectively, this group of U.S. Department of Labor (US-DOL) approved apprenticeship training programs, works with area Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) and non-profit job training organizations serving the un- and under-employed as well as constituencies currently underrepresented in the construction industry to identify candidates interested in pursuing careers in the construction. Funding and support also come from The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), United Way of Greater St. Louis, and the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.

BUD) program Building Union Diversity in wood shop

Participant Requirements

BUD participants must meet the following requirements:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Pass a drug test
  • Score at least a Level 5 on the WorkKeys Applied Math test
  • Score at least a Level 5 on the WorkKeys Workplace Documents test
  • Have access to a vehicle at program completion

Program Benefits

In addition to the free pre-apprentice training, BUD also offers supportive services to participants including:

  • Transportation to the training centers from a central location.
  • Bus passes
  • $50 weekly stipend during the training.
  • Safety equipment (boots, helmet, glasses)
  • Work clothing (pants and shirts)
  • A $150 tool allowance once indentured to an apprentice program
  • Discretionary support funding through the United Way.
  • Access to mentoring after the program from experienced construction trade members
  • Short-term transportation assistance after graduation


Construction Programs Offered at Area High Schools:

Building Union Diversity (BUD) program participants on dock

Opportunities for Partners

Social service agencies are encouraged to refer their clients to apply for the BUD program. Currently, organizations such as the Fathers Support Center or the Center for Women in Transition have referred their clients to BUD and assist in ensuring that their clients are successful in completing the program and getting a job.

Recruiting agencies have two ways to refer to the BUD program:

  1. Agency referral to SLATE (314-657-3513) or St. Louis County Workforce Development (314-679-3300) who will conduct the entire BUD vetting and referral process, or
  2. Agency is responsible for fully vetting any BUD program candidate in the following areas:
    • Determining that the candidate has a strong interest in the construction Trades career
    • Confirming that the candidate is at least the age of 18.
    • Confirming that the applicant has a High School Degree/GED or post-secondary education
    • Determining if the candidate is unemployed or under-employed
    • Confirming that the candidate has the ability to pass a Drug Test . Note that the candidate will be tested during the first week of the BUD program.
    • Confirming that applicant has achieved a Level 5 on the WorkKeys Applied Math and Workplace Documents assessment.
    • Confirming that the candidate completes a BUD application , and
    • Confirming that the candidate has a resume and brings it to the interview.

The agency should send a list of referrals to the BUD director at least one week before the beginning of the BUD class.

Agency incentives are available for any Non-WIOA funded entity, as follows:

  • $200 for each referral who successfully makes it to week 2 of training.
  • $800 for each referral who is indentured into an approved (US-DOL’s OA) construction joint apprenticeship program—within 40 days of completion

For more information, please contact:

Aurora Bihler

Building Union Diversity (BUD) STL Program Coordinator


Aurora Bihler is a journeyman Ironworker and serves as an officer on the Examining Committee of Local 396. Aurora has been involved in many labor organizations such as St. Louis City Labor Legislative Club, the Missouri Democratic Party Labor Caucus, and Missouri Women in Trades. In her spare time, she enjoys playing pinball, vermiculture, and gardening.

Education –
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Sculpture – Southern Illinois University
Construction Industry Credentials –
Journeyman Ironworker
Welding Certifications: SMAW-A1; A7-n; FCAW-S B1a, B6a, C2
Safety credentials: OSHA Sub-Part R, OSHA 10, 30, & 510; Scaffold Erector/Dismantler, Crane Signaling/Rigging
Pat Dolan

BUD STL Program Facilitator

Credentials: DOL Approved United Association of Pipe Trades Apprenticeship Program and 47-year member of Sprinklerfitters Local 268, having served as an apprenticeship coordinator with the Missouri AFL-CIO and a BUD Facilitator since the program’s inception in 2014


Interested participants can apply by filling out the online application below, or by downloading the form and emailing the filled out application to


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    Building Successful Careers

    • Previously Unemployed

      40% of participants were unemployed before enrolling in the BUD Program

    • Graduation Rate

      91% of individuals that enrolled in the BUD Program completed the program and graduated.

    • Employed After Graduation

      82% of program participants have secured a job in the construction trades within 6 months of completing the program.

    • Minority Participants

      80% of those that enrolled in the BUD Program were minorities.

    • Women Participants

      24% of those that enrolled in the BUD Program were women.

    • Veteran Participants

      6% of those that enrolled in the BUD Program were veterans.

    *Stats as of July 2020

    Building Union Diversity (BUD) participants smiling

    Hear from the Graduates

    “The BUD Program changed my life. It has put me in a great position career wise. I highly
    recommend this program.”

    “When I started it I was struggling to find any work and I was a homeless single mother. Today I have a career and make good money and am able to provide very well for my family. None of that would have happened without BUD.”

    “This program changed my life for the better. I reach out to young teens to explore this
    program because it is an excellent opportunity to better yourself with a career and an overall
    experience with people who care about your future well being.”

    Building Union Diversity (BUD) graduates with diplomas