21
Mon, May

Construction jobs are booming

A student tries to bend a steel tube in a construction demonstration. Photos by Jason Lewis

Career

Financially rewarding jobs are available throughout Los Angeles.

A student attaches pipes in a plumbing demonstration.
 

By Blake Carter

Los Angeles is going through a construction boom, and the end of it is not in sight.  Construction cranes have become a fixture in this city’s skyline, as there are major developments happening in downtown around Staple Center and the Convention Center; in Inglewood for the construction of the NFL stadium and other projects in Hollywood Park; and in residential areas where Metro is extending the growing light-rail system.

This construction boom has created good paying jobs all over the city.  But many African Americans in South Los Angeles are missing out on opportunities that are available to them.

There are a number of organizations that are performing outreach, providing training, and finding Black construction workers jobs.  

Recently, the 10th Annual L.A. Construction Careers Awareness Day was held at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (LATTC).  More than 2,000 LAUSD high school students learned about the various jobs in the construction industry; the training required; and the financial benefits of that line of work.

“We have billions of dollars coming to the city of Los Angeles,” said event organizer Pastor Stephen McGlover of the California Community Connection Corporation.  “We do not have the workforce to accommodate that.  We must be prepared.  Either we prepare this generation or other workers will be imported into our city.”

This industry has a wide range of jobs that will always be in demand, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, welders, etc.  Most of those jobs pay well.

“A lady that I know who drives a crane makes $100,000 a year,” McGlover said.  “Sometimes you begin working in the construction field making $26 an hour.”

There are organizations that are helping adults who do not have any experience in the construction industry break into the field.  PVJOBS works to place at-risk and disadvantaged youth, adults and veterans in career-track employment in the construction and other industries.  They have partnerships with organizations that provide training, and they have helped people obtain jobs on Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project.  

Whitney Winans, who is from Compton, was trained at one of the programs that PVJOBS works with.  She learned carpentry through The BOOTS program, which is specifically for women.  She is now a 2nd period apprentice carpenter at Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors, and she works along the Crenshaw/LAX line.  

Whitney Winans

Winans found out about the programs at the Southwest Carpenters Training Center.  She took the My Brother’s Keeper course where she received hands-on training, and then she looked for work.  She stopped by Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors’ booth at The Taste of Soul festival on Crenshaw Blvd., and shortly after she was hired to help build Metro’s platform stations on Crenshaw Boulevard.  She has been on the job since November of 2016, and her main task is continuing to learn the trade from the journeymen carpenters and foremen.

“I’m like the runner,” she said.  “I go get the wood and help them with anything that they need.  My job really is to pay attention and understand what they’re doing.  So when it comes my time to be in their position, I can help somebody else.”    

Before learning this profession, Winans had not used steel saws, scissor lifts, or different types of drills.  

“That’s the one thing that overwhelmed me on my first month of the job,” she said.  “You think it’s just hammer and nails.  But there are so many different tools that you have to learn.”

Before this new career, Winans did a lot of odd jobs to get by.  Now she has the goal of becoming a supervisor, foreman, or project manager, and she is not too worried about being unemployed.

“There’s always going to be infrastructure,” she said.  “There’s always going to be somebody who wants to build something.  There’s always going to be a need for construction.”

PVJOBS also helps people who were recently released from prison obtain construction jobs.

“We know how hard it is to find a job once you have a (criminal) background,” PVJOBS Executive Director Erik Miller said.  “Our organization has worked to serve the needs of the re-entry population and we feel the best cure for recidivism is a career-track job.”

Jason Thomas, who graduated from Dorsey High School, has taken advantage of a second chance.  After being incarcerated for 23 years, he now operates heavy construction equipment at a Metro site near LAX.  

Jason Thomas.
 

After being released from prison, Thomas was only able to find odd jobs, and he was working nearly around the clock just to make a decent living.

While bouncing around between low-paying jobs, Thomas started the process to become a Local 12 apprentice.  He visited Operating Engineers Training Trust - Local 12’s website, filled out an application, and he was given a test date.  The test involved a lot of math, so he was tutored in algebra and geometry.  

After passing the test he began training, learning basic construction shop skills.  He learned carpentry, engineering, how to use the various tools, and the vocabulary that is used on a construction site.  After learning his way around a construction site, Thomas was called by Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors, which is the company that is building Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX line.

“Once I entered into the union and paid my dues, I got a nice salary,” he said.  “On top of that I get paid vacations, retirement, medical, dental, and vision.”

Thomas’ position starts out at $28 per hour.  After completing the first and second step apprentice levels, he will be a journeyman, which can pay him up to $46 per hour with a lot of opportunities for overtime.  One long-term goal of a journeyman is to become a foreman.  

With this job, Thomas has formed a new appreciation for what construction workers do.

“I kind of took for granted the roads I drive on, or the buildings that I walk into, for what it took to build it,” he said.  “It’s not just get materials and build on the land.  We have to dig and remove old power lines, or old pipes; or not damage existing gas lines that are there.  We have to lay down cement, and then we can start building.  And then we have to bring it up to grade, and make sure that the grade is at a certain angle.  That’s where our grade checkers come in, and they’re from Local 12 too.  I’ve been trained a little bit in that.”

For more information about a career in construction, contact PVJOBS at (323) 432-3955 or www.pvjobs.org; The California Community Connection Corporation at (323) 791-1780 or www.c-4career.org; LATTC Construction, Maintenance, and Utilities department at (213) 763-3700 or www.college.lattc.edu/cmu/; Women Build Metro Los Angeles at www.metro.net/about/wbmla; Southwest Carpenters Training Center at (562) 699-0419 or www.swcarpenters.org; or Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors at www.walsh-shea-corridorconstructors.com; and Operating Engineers Training Trust - Local 12 website at www.oett.net.

PVJOBS is hosting an Intro to Safety Careers workshop on Friday, May 11 at their headquarters, located at 3112 S. Main Street.  Contact them for more information.

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