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Free Course To Offer Trade Job Skills As Development Increases Demand

Residents of the Hill District, Uptown and West Oakland will soon qualify for a free course that could help lead to union jobs through the Community College of Allegheny County. The course will help those seeking a union apprenticeship refresh the math skills needed for an interview.

A grant from Pittsburgh Mercy's foundation McAuley Ministries will cover a minimum of 15 students’ $109 course fee.

CCAC’s Vice President for Workforce Development, Teresa Bryant, said the grant comes at a time when union jobs, such as construction, are in higher demand in the region.

“I think that interest is even going to be more heightened with the need for more construction workers as they build out the new Shell cracker plant,” she said.

The combination of the construction of the Cracker Plant in Beaver County, increased infrastructure construction in the county and an influx of baby boomer construction worker retirements could be leaving many positions open, according to Vera Kroscheck, chief strategy officer for the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board.

“(Increased construction) especially in new energy efficiency and LEED certified buildings,” she said. “New residential construction, but also things like highway construction and bridge repair are in demand.”

Electricians, carpenters, plumbers and sheet metal workers are all considered high priority occupations in Allegheny County, according to the Investment Board. Kroscheck said a high-priority job means there are open positions, a demand for the occupation and it has at least a family sustaining wage - which is considered $14.50 an hour or more. The board collects the list of priority jobs by looking at labor market data and also asking employers how many retirements and open positions are expected for that job in the next year.  

The Investment Board projects electrician jobs will increase by 7 percent by 2022 in Allegheny County. Carpentry jobs are expected to increase by 14 percent in that time frame. Plumber, pipefitter and steamfitter positions are projected to increase by almost 9 percent and iron and steam worker positions are expected to bump up by 8 percent.

The grant was designed to help people in neighborhoods with high rates of unemployment and help them qualify for an apprenticeship, including on-the-job training and classroom instruction.

Executive Director Michele Rone Cooper said workforce development is now a priority in those neighborhoods, especially the Hill District which has presented a new master community development plan.

“A lot of development will take place in, not only the Hill District, but the greater Pittsburgh region over the next several years and we feel that it’s important that the residents of those three neighborhoods are prepared to participate in those developments,” she said.

The course offered by CCAC covers reading measurements, adding and subtracting fractions, converting measurements, as well as test taking and interview skills. A four-session course will be offered at Allegheny Campus starting Oct. 15. A three-session course will start Dec. 3 at the Energy Innovation Center.