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UA VIP instructors praise growing Construction Working Minds Summit

VIP instructors and staff

Hundreds of individuals within the construction industry gathered in Kansas City for The Construction Working Minds Summit. 

The United Association was a proud presenting sponsor for the third year in a row. UA VIP Program Manager Mike Hazard, several UA VIP instructors and UA members from across the country were in attendance.

The pre-conference was held on Feb. 26 and 27, with the actual conference on Feb. 28 and 29. During the pre-conference, the UA VIP instructors attended Peer Allies in Construction & Recovery First Aid Certification workshops. 2024 CWM Summit Group Pic

The UA VIP instructors played a big role in the summit this year. Jose Ballejo thought the event was successful and said the event gets bigger every year. 

“I think it’s great. We’re starting to see attendees bring their family members,” Ballejo said. 

The Fort Carson welding instructor said he met a woman in the lobby who was the spouse of a construction worker. 

“When we start bringing our family members, they’ll be able to see if something is off,” he said. “More family members should come, there’s more people here this year than last year and I think that’s great.” 

Rachel LaBlance, welding instructor at Camp Lejeune, called the conference eye-opening and said the storytelling had a huge impact. 

“We take it for granted that we’re all in this industry together and we don’t really think about what someone is actually dealing with every day,” she said. 

LaBlance found the substance abuse training powerful and thought it was awesome that over 400 doses of Narcan were distributed at the conference. 

Ballejo and LaBlance both spoke during the break-out panel about the mental health challenges they faced when they transitioned out of the military, and how the UA VIP MAP Resources helped them.

The Construction Working Minds Summit offers beneficial training 

Joint Base Lewis-McChord instructors Jeremy Rood and Dave Gibson and Fort Carson instructor Ezra Saint-Peter all agreed they learned from the training they received at the summit. 

“It was great to talk to the different trades and contractors about the resources they use to start the conversation with members in need of help,” Gibson said. “It is humbling to know that so many people care and how much more these programs need to grow.”

Gibson added that he thought learning more about mental health from so many great speakers was a great opportunity. 

Rood said he thought the whole week was beneficial and he continues to learn more every year. 

“Mental health is not a single destination and what works for one person may not work for you,” he said. “There are so many resources we can use and have yet to learn to help us end the stigma.”

So many people from across the nation were in attendance and shared their stories and different skills to use in a time of distress, he added. 

The UA VIP instructors were blown away by how many suicides happen in the construction industry every year. 

“The statistics were very eye-opening,” Saint-Peter said. “I had no idea about the specifics, but I’m glad to see a lot of different entities across the industry trying to move in a positive direction to address that.” 

The event is expected to keep growing, which means each year, awareness will be spread about the mental health struggles that are commonly found in the construction industry. 

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