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Free community workshop Jan. 27

Between 1999 and 2014, southwestern Pennsylvania saw an average of about $2.7 billion in annual union commercial construction. Last year alone, that figure more than doubled to $5.6 billion, and in 2019, it is projected to be $6.3 billion—and the trade unions are working to see that more of the region’s African Americans earn some of that money.

On Jan. 27, the Builders Guild of Western PA, in partnership with community and educational partners, will hold a Construction Trades Careers Community Workshop to introduce young Black men and women to potential life-changing opportunities. Tim Stevens, founder of the Black Political Empowerment Project, Odell Richardson of Pittsburgh Community Services and Builders Guild Executive Director Jeff Nobers met with the New Pittsburgh Courier editorial board, Jan. 4, to discuss the workshop and ongoing efforts to recruit Blacks into the trades.

“I’d like to say this is a ‘Nate Smith’ moment, recalling the great Black labor advocacy work he did in the 1960s to integrate the unions,” said Stevens. “We have an obligation to keep that fire alive.”

While Smith fought primarily with the United Steelworkers, the Builders Guild includes 18 different trade unions ranging from laborers and masons to operating engineers and electricians—and all of them, Nobers said, are going to be needing workers—and it’s not just in construction, but in the maintenance and repair that follows.

“In addition to all that work coming up, over the next 10 years, we’re going to have between 14,000 and 15,000 tradesmen retiring,” he said. “So what we’re doing with these career fairs is teaming up with as many partners as we can to reduce barriers people have to taking advantage of these opportunities.”

Contrary to popular belief, a criminal record is not necessarily an impediment to getting a position that starts at $18 an hour plus free Cadillac health care and pension benefits.

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