Economic Development Newsroom

Skilled Training Program Reaches Milestone With First Graduating Class

Wednesday July 9, 2014

A group of eager workers and learners were honored today in a unique commencement ceremony – the first graduating class of Bridges to Opportunities, a workforce training program created to provide minority and female workers with education and skills for careers in construction.

“Every commencement exercise is a celebration, a bright beginning, and today’s ceremony is no exception,” said Warren Whitlock, Associate Administrator for Civil Rights, Federal Highway Administration. “But Bridges to Opportunities is that much and more. Those whom we honor today have been able, through this program, to acquire skills and training for a lifetime of good jobs.”

Whitlock keynoted a ceremony at the historic Louisville Trolley Barn, which included Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and state, local, higher education, workforce development, labor and business leaders who are partners in the program.

Governor Steve Beshear launched Bridges to Opportunities in March 2013, part of the state’s commitment to increase opportunities for minorities and women in the construction field.

Bridges to Opportunities – known popularly as “B2O” – was funded as part of the $2.3 billion Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project. The project serves as the catalyst for B2O, but the program was designed to equip women and minorities with skills for a career, not a single construction project.

“The choice of names for Bridges to Opportunities was no accident,” said Secretary Hancock. “We used plural terms – ‘bridges’ and ‘opportunities’ – for a reason. The Ohio River Bridges will be finished in a few years, but those participating in B2O are acquiring skills for a lifetime career.”

Honorees attending the ceremony today were among 293 men and women who advanced through three training tracks to attain industry-recognized certifications and three college credits. Certifications are in welding, basic blueprint reading, and highway flagger and safety.

“This is a perfect intersection of two of our top priorities – building a city of lifelong learners and creating good job and career opportunities for all of our citizens,” Mayor Fischer said. “The skills, confidence and jobs that these graduates are achieving through this partnership will help build stronger families and s stronger community for years to come.”

The new graduates received certificates and items appropriate for a day on a construction job – travel mug, lunch tote, laser level and tape measure.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet developed the program in partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development, Kentucky State University, Louisville Metro Government, Jefferson Community and Technical College and Federal Highway Administration.

Kentucky State University, the Commonwealth’s historically black college and land-grant institution, has administered the program, including recruitment, enrollment, evaluation and basic skills training.

Nineteen program participants have earned 29 total certifications in various types of welding and are considered work- and labor-ready. Twelve more have gone to work on the Downtown Crossing – Kentucky’s half of the Ohio River Bridges project – and several others have accepted work in other, construction-related jobs. Ten program participants have been employed in competitive union apprenticeship programs.

Walsh Construction, the lead firm building the Bridges Project’s Downtown Crossing, is a supporter of Bridges to Opportunities. In addition, a volunteer board of community leaders helps recruit and encourage participation in the program.

Bridges to Opportunities – Key Facts

Bridges to Opportunities, known popularly as B2O, features three training tracks for individuals looking to start careers in the construction field:

  • Track 1 – Short-term workforce certification in Basic Blueprint Reading and Highway Flagging and Safety. Participants earn three college credits from Kentucky State University.
  • Track 2 – Skilled Laborer OJT/Pre-Apprenticeship. Instruction offered by Jefferson Community and Technical College and local labor unions combines classroom, hands-on and on-the-job training as heavy equipment operators, carpenters, laborers, iron workers, electricians and truck drivers, among others.
  • Track 3 –Long-Term Certificate Program. Participants can earn a certificate in construction technology that is equivalent to three hours of college credit and can be completed in six months or less. Or they can enroll in an undergraduate certificate program that is transferable to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System as credit toward an associate’s degree or to a four-year institution toward a bachelor’s degree.

Bridges to Opportunities is headquartered at the Kentucky Career Center, Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, located at 6th and Cedar in Louisville. Those interested in the program can apply and complete the assessment process at the Kentucky Career Center or online at