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By: Jeff Nobers, Executive Director, Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania

BG Blog Feb 18 01A rapidly increasing construction market coupled with thousands of retirements is offering never before seen opportunities in the building trades.As you research and make decisions on a career path one of the most critical things to assess is the current and long-term demand for the profession.  While this seems like common sense, there are literally tens of thousands of people in the Pittsburgh region who are either in dead-end jobs or unfulfilling careers, because they did not make that simple assessment.

There is no shortage of reputable studies that show the western Pennsylvania region will be in dire need of technically skilled professionals over the next ten years, as historic growth in the petrochemical, natural gas, technology, education, manufacturing, and healthcare industries drive our economy.  Fact is, of the available positions in southwestern Pennsylvania nearly 60% will not require a four-year college degree, but rather a two-year associates degree, technical degree, or technical certifications.

Many of the regional industries are still in their infancy, like the petrochemical, natural gas, and technology industries.  And while they all hold the promise of tens of thousands of good paying professions that do not require a four-year degree, many of these positions are still years away.  One industry that is actively recruiting and in great need today are the regions’ building trades and their affiliated general and specialty contractors.

BG Blog Feb 18 02The Pittsburgh region is in the early stages of a massive construction boom, infrastructure, highways, industrial complexes, power plants, cracker plants, manufacturing facilities, Pittsburgh International Airport renovation, condos and apartments, hotels, offices, hospitals, educational facilities, mixed-use facilities, and more.  According to the Tall Timber Group, publishers of Breaking Ground Magazine, the official publication of the Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania, commercial construction spending is estimated to be $5.5 billion this year and over $6.1 billion in 2019, with growth expected to continue in 2020 and beyond.

This historic growth, coupled with the impending retirement of thousands of experienced tradespeople over the next several years, is creating vast career opportunities in the building trades.  So how do you take advantage of this life-long career opportunity?

The region’s 16 building trade unions each run their own Joint Apprenticeship Training Center, offering three to five-year apprentice training programs that can launch you into these remarkable careers.  No construction experience is necessary.

Unlike College, technical schools, or certification programs, there is no cost to the apprentice, and apprentices are paid and receive health and pension benefits.  Training is split between classroom (about 10%) and on the job training (about 90%.)  First-year apprentice hourly pay rates can be as much as three times the minimum wage, with benefits fully paid for by the contractors. 

Trade union construction professionals are among the highest earners with typical annual pay of more than $65,000; that’s more than 20% higher than the Pennsylvania state household average income, and many make into six-figures.  There are also multiple career paths available including construction foreman, superintendent, project manager, and estimator; or as many do, you can start your own business while remaining a commercial trade union member and employer.  The opportunities truly are endless.

Remarkable, sustainable, long-term careers with far better than average family-sustaining wages and benefits that are among the best in any industry.  Regardless of your background or experience, you owe it to yourself to investigate these training programs and careers.

To get all the details on the 16 apprenticeship training programs, qualifications, and how to apply, click on the “Apprenticeships” tab of our website.

By: Jeff Nobers, Executive Director, Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania

Most people don’t think of the Construction Trades as a career path for women, yet as the demand for skilled construction tradespeople continues to grow in the Pittsburgh Region and nationally, more women are finding their path in the commercial construction industry.

Over the past two to three years there has been a conscious effort to recruit more women into the trades to build a more diverse workforce.  The result being a noticeable increase in the number of women applying to the joint apprenticeship training programs in our region.

This coupled with the exposure for the apprenticeship programs that resulted from the massive Shell Cracker Plant project in Beaver County, has clearly led women from a variety of backgrounds and all stages of life to see the construction trades as a viable, sustainable and financially rewarding career.

BG Heath CawleyHeath Cawley says seeing the daily results of your work is very satisfying.A perfect example is Heath Cawley, a second- year apprentice in Tile Setting with the Bricklayers & Allied Crafts Local No. 9.  Ms. Cawley’s path, while seemingly untraditional, is not all that uncommon.

“I had spent several years in the food service industry, but the hours were exceptionally long, and the pay wasn’t really equal to the hours I was putting in,” she said.  “With young children at home I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom for a while.”

It was then that she found her knack and passion for remodeling her home, especially tile work, and when she was ready to rejoin the workforce she knew this was her passion.

“It’s the type of craft where you can be highly imaginative, and you get to see the results very vividly,” she said.  “There is something very special about seeing what you’ve worked on and the pride in knowing that it was done with the utmost care and commitment.”

BG Jessica TraynorJessica Traynor is a welding apprentice w/ Steamfitters Local # 449Jessica Traynor was working in a job she describes as unexciting and with little long-term growth.  As a single parent she knew she needed to find a career that would allow her to earn family sustaining wages and do the things for her son that she’d always dreamed of.  “I’ve learned a life-long professional skill, I earn five times what I did in my previous position and I have great benefits.  Truly life changing for me and my son,” she said, and she believes more women should consider the trades as a career.

“I think women fear the physicality of the profession, which I did too, but now that I’ve been doing this for four years I can honestly say it’s not something I even think about …it’s just what I do.” 

From interior designer to carpenter is Hannah Grey’s path.  She graduated from college and immediately went to work for an architectural firm and that’s when she was exposed to the training offered by the Keystone + Mountain + Lakes Carpenters training center.

BG Hannah GreyHannah Grey says she is proud to tell others that she's a union tradesperson.

“The basis of a program they hosted was too show architects the real-world applications of what we designed, but for me it rekindled a love of carpentry that dated from childhood,” she said.  Less than year later she applied and was accepted into the commercial carpentry program.

“In a world that is flooded with technology I enjoy being a member of an industry that relies on the importance of hand craftsmanship and personal skill," she said.

Different backgrounds and different paths, yet a common thread of the enjoyment of being a true craftsperson, an artist even, and gaining the benefits of a sustainable, well-paying career.

On average union construction tradespeople earn $65,000 annually with comprehensive health care as well as pension and annuity benefits.  It’s not uncommon for tradespeople to earn well over $85,000 per year and even over six figures.  You also become an important part of the continued development and building of the Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania Region which is experiencing perhaps the largest commercial building boom in its’ history, with no signs of that boom slowing.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the apprenticeship training offered by the region’s 16 commercial trades through their Joint Apprenticeship Training Centers is that there is no-cost for the training - it’s paid for by the unions and their contractor partners - and apprentices are paid and receive health care and pension benefits too.

There are scores of opportunities across the 16 construction trades that operate in western Pennsylvania.  You can learn more and link directly to the training center web sites by Clicking Here.