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An innovative program to recruit and train residents of housing projects as apprentices in the building trades is being discussed by local unions, housing officials and other agencies.

Once trained, residents would be qualified to work as union apprentices on such jobs as Crossroads Arena, housing officials were told at a meeting Thursday.

They also may be hired by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority to work in the projects, according to Michael K. Clarke, the authority's executive director, who briefed board members on the program. He added that the first recruits would be trained as painters and carpenters.

"Other trade unions may be added as the process develops," said Clarke, who noted the authority will review modernization projects to see which ones lend themselves to training apprentices.

The program is modeled after ones in other cities, according to Clarke, who called the proposal "fairly innovative."

Last October, six top officials of the national building trades unions signed a memorandum of agreement with Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros to set up the program. According to the agreement, the unions want to provide apprenticeship training as a way of introducing residents to careers in the construction industry.

Under the Buffalo plan, the Private Industry Council would help evaluate residents, and the painters and carpenters unions would train them.

Representatives from Mayor Masiello's office, Youthbuild of Erie County and Buffalo General Hospital Vision 2020 Project also are participating in the discussions, Clarke said.

In other matters, Buffalo housing officials are considering joining other housing authorities in major upstate cities in a lobbying group.

The association might hire a top New York City lawyer with experience in federal housing matters, he said, adding that it met Wednesday in Syracuse and discussions included Cisneros' reorganization of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and moves by Congress to abolish the department.

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