Stepping up When Opportunity Knocks

Stepping up When Opportunity Knocks

Aug. 18, 2022

CHICAGO – For the past eight years, CISCO has partnered with a church on Chicago’s South Side to promote careers in the building construction trades to young men and women with a hands-on trades fair. The church then offers a free, 12-week pre-apprenticeship training program as a way to best prepare these men and women when it comes time to apply for a construction apprenticeship program. 

CISCO Trades Fair

CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen said over the years, many seeds of hope have been planted at the Expo, allowing many men and women the opportunity to become aware of a successful career in the construction trades. Photo courtesy of CISCO

“CISCO’s Education-to-Careers program is humbled to have helped so many young people obtain careers in the various Union trades,” CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen told guests. “The collaboration of Union contractors and the building trades is vital to attracting the next generation of skilled men and women into our industry – which is our life blood.”

The annual Construction Conference & Expo, held at St. Paul Church of God in Christ, brings Union representatives from numerous construction trades together, allowing them to discuss with the public their specific requirements to enter into their apprenticeship programs, along with the benefits of a career that offers competitive pay, pensions and health care. 

Many of the Unions, like the bricklayers, carpenters and trowel trades, allowed the public to perform hands-on work, such as laying brick and measuring and cutting wood to certain specifications. At this year’s Expo, two Union representatives the Bricklayers Local 21, representing the Administrative District Council 1 of Illinois Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, had both gone through St. Paul’s pre-apprenticeship program years earlier.

Miles Afriyie, 22, and Eddie Martin, 37, both 2nd year apprentices, completed the pre-apprenticeship program in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and both said the program allowed them to be better prepared for their apprenticeship exam.

“Honestly, [St. Paul] is the one that got me to where I am right now,” Afriyie explained. “They told me everything I needed to do, which translated into my apprenticeship program, which translated into me working.”

Afriyie’s training and talent has qualified him to compete next month in Boston at the 2022 BAC/IMI International Apprentice Contest after placing 4th in July’s regional North Central Apprentice Contest where contestants were given a blueprint and allowed four hours to build. They were given a combined score on their masonry skills and written test.

CISCO Trades Fair

Second year bricklayer apprentice Miles Afriyie is pictured competing at the regional level of the North Central Apprentice Contest where he placed 4th, allowing him to move on to Boston next month to compete at the 2022 BAC/IMI International Apprentice Contest. He’ll be keeping his eye on the little details, which judges told him are important and can mean the difference between 1st and 2nd place. Photo courtesy of International Masonry Institute

Martin had always wanted to work in construction, but didn’t know how to apply for a trade. Walking around the Expo in 2020 and listening to what different Unions had to offer opened his eyes to the work they perform and what qualifications are needed to apply.

“I always had a passion to build things, and now I get to step back and actually see what I built, and I can show my family. It’s something I can be proud of,” Martin explained.

He wishes more organizations like CISCO and St. Paul would expose the Union construction trades to others, allowing people to understand there are other avenues besides college or starting work right away. “[College is just not for everybody. People need to know there are other options.”

CISCO Trades Fair

Pastor Kevin Anthony Ford, president of St. Paul Community Development Ministries (SPCDM), said his ministry’s pre-apprenticeship program and a career in the building construction trades allow men and women to stand toe-to-toe with opportunity.

Pastor Kevin Anthony Ford, president of St. Paul Community Development Ministries (SPCDM), said the annual Construction Conference & Expo, along with its pre-apprenticeship program, have open the doors of opportunity to allow men and women to walk through and secure a successful career in the building construction trades.

“I see a future for these men and women, and the future looks bright. We are the changemakers for them. We want to see the doors of opportunity open for anyone who desires to enter an apprenticeship program and make their way in the construction industry,” Pastor Ford said.

Ford would like young people to understand that – with the help of a career in a Union, it will allow them opportunities and hope – as long as they have the catalysts in place, like the recent trades fair, to put them in a position to create wealth and later, generational wealth.

CISCO Trades Fair

Miles Afriyie, kneeling left, and Eddie Martin, right, both apprentice bricklayers with Local 21, show guests at the Aug. 18 St. Paul Construction and Conference Expo the proper technique to apply mortar to brick. Photo courtesy of CISCO

CISCO Trades Fair

A Union rep from Pipefitters Local 597 discusses with a man how pipefitters lay piping systems for installation and assembling equipment. Photo courtesy of CISCO

CISCO Trades Fair

After listening to instructions, this woman uses what she learned and applies it to the task at hand. Many of the Unions present at the Trades Fair allowed guests to get hands-on experience for a true understanding of the work and skill level involved. Photo courtesy of CISCO

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