City of Hartford Launches Mentor-Protégé Program | Connecticut Public Radio

City of Hartford Launches Mentor-Protégé Program

Mar 24, 2014

Participants in the City of Hartford's first mentor-protégé program, from left: Ian Howell and his mentor, Nick Bonadies; Joslyn F. Chance and his mentors, Cathy Jo and Barry Cousineau; Shane Kelly and his mentor, Arthur "Chip" Martin.
Credit J Holt

Many cities promote minority and women owned businesses by hiring them to provide services. But Hartford is going one step further -- with a mentoring program. 

"If we can launch this effort successfully... then you're going to see the ladder of opportunity materialize, and people walking up that ladder."
Mayor Pedro Segarra

Shane Kelly is an ironwork contractor, and his company, Kelly Steel, has been a certified minority-owned business for years. He wants to expand his business into more areas of his industry. "I've been apprehensive, you know," he said. "No one wants to mess up."

Kelly has found it difficult to get experience and develop the necessary skills, while managing and taking on more of the work his company is already good at. He's not alone, according to Eloy Toppin, of Hartford's Procurement Services Department. Despite a lot of general competition, there aren't always enough Minority and Women Owned Businesses, or MWBEs, qualified to bid for some types of jobs that require very specialized experience and equipment. Structural steel erection, the direction Kelly wants to expand, is one of them. 

"What we thought about, in developing small businesses," Toppin said, "is to put together a mentor-protégé program." After more than a year of collaboration with Iron Workers Local Union 15, the Hartford School Building Committee, and a host of other organizations in the region, Hartford's pilot mentor-protégé program was announced recently at the Hartford Public Library. 

Kelly Steel, and two other MWBEs, all union contractors, have been paired with veteran union firms to learn the behind the scenes skills required for steel structure erection. They'll also receive training in software fundamentals, financial management, insurance, and bonding. 

After the announcement, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said, "If we can launch this effort successfully, and grow the effort, so that the industrious community more resembles the makeup of the city, then you're going to see the ladder of opportunity materialize, and people walking up that ladder."

All officials involved are hopeful this trial will lead to more, and varied, mentorships in the future. The over all hope is that more qualified bidders will result in more work for Hartford companies, and more employment opportunities for Hartford residents.