The BLACK TRADES COUNCIL was founded in June 1991 by George D. Edwards, an African-American pipefitter, to remedy the historical underrepresentation of minorities and women in the various building trades. As a nonprofit agency chartered by the state of Ohio in 1992, the Black Trades Council was financially supported by a consortium of minority contractors and tradesmen and was partially staffed by volunteer instructors. The council not only provided training in the building trades to low-income minorities and women, but also aided contractors in locating prospective employees and monitored construction sites to ensure the inclusion of minority and female workers. The council monitored the construction work for the Gateway and Arena Project in 1995, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in 2004, and the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART in 2005. In 2002, the Black Trades Council threatened to picket CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY due to what it deemed to be a lack of minority participation in the construction of the Peter B. Lewis Building. The agreement brokered between CWRU and the council with the help of the CLEVELAND NAACP opened new opportunities for small black-owned enterprises, redefining the relationship of the university with Cleveland's minority business community.
The instruction provided by the Black Trades Council prepared the student to earn certification from the Association of General Contractors and thus be qualified for employment anywhere in the U.S. in his or her chosen field of specialization. The council offered instruction in building maintenance, carpentry, electrical work, masonry, pipe fitting and plumbing, sheet metal work, heating and ventilating, and in estimating. The daily training regimen consisted of two class periods in academic skills, then two periods of classroom training in the specialty field followed by two hours of laboratory experience. Training in a specific area required 195 days. Students were aided by a mentor and by a sponsor who funded the cost of each student's education. After three years of organization, the Black Trades Council welcomed its first class of 14 trainees in spring 1995. The Black Trades Council was located at 5450 East 105th Street and Edwards served as the president of the organization.