A two-year-old program to increase the diversity of the construction work force in Los Angeles has resulted in the training and hiring of nearly 1,400 workers, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Wednesday.

"We want to have a workforce that looks like Los Angeles," Villaraigosa told some 200 religious leaders at the Faith Based Workforce Project.

The program, which involves all the major construction unions in the city, provides a boot camp and extensive training program for workers - particularly African-Americans - to fill apprentice slots to become full-time workers in the construction industry.

"When I was campaigning in 2005, I remember this one man, a real big guy, ask me what I was going to do for the African-American community on job sites," Villaraigosa said. "When you looked at the sites, all the workers were white.

"I didn't forget that and we brought people together to make sure that as the city progressed, everyone would have a chance to succeed."

Deputy Mayor Larry Frank said the program, which operates out of the UAW Center at 3965 S. Vermont Ave., has a goal of seeing that 20 percent of all workers are minorities.

"This is open to everyone in the city," Frank said. "We are finding there is a lot more interest lately because of the economic situation with so many people laid off."

Villaraigosa said he hopes the federal government will provide an extensive investment in Los Angeles as part of the economic recovery program.

"We are not going to the federal government with hat in hand," Villaraigosa said. "The voters here have approved $50 billion in spending, and we are hoping to leverage that with the federal government."

rick.orlov@dailynews.com 213-978-0390