Community Mentoring Team aiming at sustainable diversity in trades ranks

The Community Mentoring Team’s Class of 2023 is shown upon completion of its electrician apprenticeship program with Dorchester’s IBEW Local 103. CEO and Founder Bill Moran says the program is helping trade unions connect with qualified candidates from the city’s neighborhoods. CMT photo

A Boston-based nonprofit that has over the last five years has worked to bring more Black and Brown men and women into the building trades has gained and maintained substantial momentum from its robust partnership with the powerhouse Dorchester union, IBEW Local 103.

The Community Mentoring Team (CMT) today has 115 students, of whom 106 have already been placed in various apprenticeship trade roles, learning work-enhancing skills at the union’s headquarters on Freeport Street.

The organization was founded by Roxbury resident Bill Moran, who felt a need to plug more Bostonians of color into good-paying union jobs on construction sites around the region.

“I kept hearing about the lack of Black and Brown people in the trades and I heard a couple of people say, ‘We can’t find them,’” said Moran, who decided to confront that defeatist mindset and used the founding of CMT to begin to do so. Starting in 2018with an initial cohort of 18 students and 15 Black men from the community as their mentors, he helped them find apprenticeships and other opportunities in local trade unions.

Moran has leveraged relationships he had with union leaders at Sheet Metal Local 17, Piledrivers Local 56, Sprinklerfitters Local 550, and the Plumbers & Gasfitters Local 12 to move things along. In that first full year as a non-profit, CMT recruited and mentored those mentees for electrical work apprenticeships with IBEW Local 103. Last June, 14 of them graduated from the five-year program.

The partnership, which uses CMT’s motto “Mentoring Success,” has been growing ever since. Linda Dorcena Forry, the former state representative and senator who is co-owner and co-publisher of the Reporter, is a member of CMT’s advisory board member. She says the nonprofit is “transforming apprenticeships and disrupting the pre-apprenticeship model” and points to the importance of increasing public-private partnerships in order to grow CMT programming.

In addition to traditional job training, CMT provides its students with financial help for industry exam fees and prep courses, tools and supplies, and other expenses related to their career hopes. And it matches mentees with mentors who are industry leaders and role models.

“The model here is to team up with partners who share our mission to create career opportunities that are ongoing and self-sustaining,” said Dorcena Forry.

Lisa Scales is one of the mentees who has benefited from the CMT approach. The 41-year-old Dorchester resident, who is a second-year apprentice electrician at IBEW, worked for the MBTA for more than a decade before taking what she called a “leap of faith” with CMT.  While noting that entering a brand-new field can be intimidating, Scales calls her CMT experience nothing short of a blessing. Some might call it a double blessing because her 23-year-old daughter is also in the program.

“Knowing that you have somebody there at all times for any type of guidance or anything that you need, it completely changed everything,” said Scales. Joining CMT, she added, has not only allowed her to succeed in a competitive field but it has also improved her mental strength. “I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt as far as things that I just never even considered myself being able to do.”

Lou Antonellis, Business Manager and Financial Secretary at Local 103, said the partnership is helping the union realize its goals as well. “I work closely with Bill Moran,” he said. “We’ve forged a great relationship because of our common goals of trying to help young men and women from Dorchester, Roxbury, the city of Boston find good-paying jobs, good careers, and it’s been a great ride so far.” 

Thomas Guess, another second-year mentee in the program who is learning a trade with the Local 17 Sheet Metal Union, says his concern about his family’s future is what brought him to CMT. 

“First and foremost, it gave me a career job that I’ve never had. I needed to get my life together and that’s what CMT presented to me, keeping me on a straight line and being able to raise my kids the right way and having a career. This is what I’m doing it for,” he said, “to create a future for them. To open doors for my kids and for generations to come in my family.”

Pastor John A. Heath, a co-founder of the National Black Professional Lobbyist Association who serves on CMT’s advisory board, met Moran at the National Urban League Conference in Indianapolis in 2019 and the two have worked together ever since. Heath says there is a long-lasting impact for those who’ve entered the program.

 “This is just not impacting a life, this is really multi-generational,” he said. “When we start talking about stemming the tide of poverty and stemming the tides of lack of opportunity and hopelessness, it is visionaries like Bill, and it is organizations like CMT that are really going to give us this opportunity, to give folks that path toward the American dream, the path toward success.” 

He added: “The partnerships that Bill continues to work on with the trades and with developers literally gives people who would have probably been stuck in multi-generational poverty the chance to finally move into a path toward multi-generational prosperity.”

CMT mentor Robert Lewis, a Boston resident and longtime Moran friend who works in transportation, appreciates that he can help to change the life narrative of young people in the trades. 

“I’ve had great mentors from my grandfather to a lot of folks in the community. So, for me, it was natural being able to see myself in a lot of these young guys, growing up in the city, with all of the challenges and different things like that,” he said.

“We all know the unions have not been too open to people of color. A lot of times the narrative [about applicants] is that they don’t want to work hard. We’re changing that. We mentor strong, intelligent, driven people.” 

Bill Moran’s wife Casandra says that her husband is the ultimate mentor because he has built a system that will exist for years to come.

“Bill’s vision and the CMT program is such that it will be sustainable over time. Cultivating the pipeline of mentors and mentees along with unions and the business community will continue to change the landscape,” she said. “Community Mentoring Team enables career opportunities aimed at creating a stable, thriving and self-sustaining Black community in Massachusetts.”  

For more information on CMT and its next class, visit

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