The new Norton West Louisville Hospital is providing construction apprenticeship opportunities for the local community.

Image courtesy of Norton Healthcare

Houston Briscoe, an apprentice at Hussung Mechanical Contractors, Louisville, Ky., is helping to build a new hospital located around the corner from where he grew up. The West Louisville native is a first-year plumbing apprentice working to install pipes at the new Norton West Louisville Hospital, part of the Norton Healthcare system. 

“I’ve always looked at construction sites and imagined myself working on them and was always involved in working with my hands and stuff like that, so this is a good fit,” Briscoe says.

Briscoe came to Hussung Mechanical Contractors as part of the Urban Workforce Development Initiative (UWDI), a program developed by the hospital’s general contractor, a joint venture of Harmon/Messer. In partnership with Norton Healthcare and the Louisville Urban League, UWDI works to connect minorities and women with promising opportunities in the construction field.

“We create a pipeline directly from West Louisville into these high-paying career opportunities that provide benefits — health, dental and vision — in addition to high-paying paychecks,” says Stanley Warrenhuffman, Messer economic inclusion manager. 

The program has seen great success. The Louisville Urban League oversees selection of job candidates, who must complete a training program called Kentuckiana Builds before advancing to on-the-job experience and then receiving a full-time employment offer from a local construction company. UWDI provides additional support for the candidates as they grow their budding careers.

Of the 23 candidates selected by the Louisville Urban League, 15 are currently working on the Norton West Louisville Hospital job site. Of those 15, 73% are registered in apprenticeship programs. 

Anthony Mathis, Norton Healthcare system director for sustainability and supplier diversity, says the career pipeline program is helping to strengthen the new hospital’s community connection.

“It was very important for us to get buy-in from the [West Louisville] community, and I don’t think there’s any other way to get better buy-in than to have the community be involved in the construction of the project,” Mathis says. 

The new Norton West Louisville Hospital, which is expected to open in November 2024, is being built on the Norton Healthcare Goodwill Opportunity Campus. The hospital will include inpatient beds, an emergency department, operating rooms, imaging services, a retail pharmacy and more.