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TREVON JOHNSON, of McKees Rocks, gets valuable information from community service organizations and Construction Trades professionals at the Career Workshop at PPG Paints Arena, Jan. 26. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Event geared to attract African Americans

Brian Trimble barely had time to speak with the New Pittsburgh Courier at the Construction Trades Career Workshop, held Jan. 27 at PPG Paints Arena.

Trimble, manning the table of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, was constantly explaining to prospective job seekers the ins and outs of his craft, and how to become a stable member in the construction trades profession.

“Tremendous,” Trimble told the Courier of the turnout. “We’ve had (young adults) and adults from all over the place (here) looking for jobs, and again, the nice thing is, we have the jobs.”

The five-hour event was sponsored by the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania and co-sponsored by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Master Builders Association. Jeff Nobers, executive director of the Builders Guild, estimated over 4,000 people attended the free event. Attendees were able to get access to the region’s construction trade unions, general contractors and community and social service organizations.

Trimble said his expertise is in stone masonry, installing brick walls, tile work, etc. He told the Courier most people asked him how much is the pay, and how long does it take to become established in the construction field.

“Bricklayers nowadays would make around $35 an hour, but you gotta work up to that,” Trimble said. “The initial training, that’s eight to 10 weeks, but then for the full apprentice, that’s the (roughly) four-year program.”

Those in the initial training and apprentice program make about $17 per hour to start, and work their way up the pay scale, as per negotiated union financial agreements. Trimble said one of the best parts of the training and apprentice program is that it’s of no cost to the trainee. “We’re a union-based organization, so the union puts the money in so you can come to school for free. There’s no huge loans when you get out. You earn while you learn,” he said.

Word of the Jan. 27 Construction Trades Career Workshop spread like wildfire. Advertisements were placed in newspapers (including the New Pittsburgh Courier), on television, radio, and thousands of flyers were placed at community-based locations. Nobers told the Courier during an editorial board meeting, Jan. 4, that African Americans were strongly encouraged to attend. He said thousands of jobs were going to be available over the foreseeable future in the construction trades, and supposed barriers like a criminal record does not prohibit a person from obtaining a career in the trades.

“I said I might as well give it a shot; it said they’d have a wide selection of people that were going to be here, and it was true,” said Trevon Johnson, who came to the event. “There’s a whole bunch of opportunities down here. It’s for everyone, everyone qualifies, even if you don’t have a work history, no matter what your background is. It’s equal opportunity,” Johnson said.

“I like to work with my hands, so it’s something different to try to get into,” added William Lovett, of East Liberty, another African American male who came to the event. He told the Courier he enjoys painting, carpentry, and welding. He heard about the event on the radio, specifically WAMO-FM (100.1), who broadcasted from PPG Paints Arena’s mezzanine level, the site of the event.

“This is an excellent turnout; now what’s going to be important is try to collect and record as many people, addresses, etc., so that we can follow up,” said Odell Richardson, executive director of Pittsburgh Community Services Inc. Richardson’s organization was also instrumental in spreading the word to Pittsburgh’s African American community. “Everybody that showed up here, service providers, unions, are happy, because one of the biggest things everybody is looking to have is participation.”

“The sheer volume of people who attended today shows the high level of interest in the construction trades and industry,” Nobers said in a press release after the event. “These careers pay true family sustaining wages and provide comprehensive health care and pension and annuity benefits.”

Those who did not attend the event but would like more information on the construction trades can visit http://www.builders guild.org and click apprenticeships.


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