The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (TIP) has been operated out of Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg since it started in 2009. Now, the program has moved to a new space: the former Westinghouse Electric Building in Homewood.
TIP takes mostly formerly incarcerated men and women and trains them in masonry.
“What we’ve developed to date is, we can take a guy that’s in a halfway house or on the street, and we can take him from zero to a living wage in less than 90 days,” said Stephen Shelton, TIP executive director.
At the Hosanna House space (1,000 square feet) only eight students could be accommodated; the new 10,000 square foot space can accommodate many more. Already there are 12 students. Shelton said 16 are expected by the end of the week and enrollment is expected to triple by the end of the year. That, he said, will allow TIP to have an even greater impact than it has already had.
“We’ve trained almost 200 guys, 100 of them graduated, 76 of them are in full-time employment right now and there’s been a whole lot of life changing going on,” said Shelton.
Shelton has been in the trades for about 40 years and said as he began to look around a few years ago noticed many of those in the trades were older. He got the idea to take people off the streets and get them trained and employed, since many who are working now will retire in the coming years.
“You know, we’re going to have so much development happening in the city in the next 10 years, our trades are going to have to look to places like Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland to find people to do the jobs,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “My goal has always been, why not look to Pittsburgh first?”
In addition to ensuring a local labor force, Shelton said having full-time jobs that pay living wages helps keep many of the students from landing back in prison.
“Seventy-five percent of the students are formerly incarcerated,” said Shelton. “The re-arrest rate for PA average, the re-arrest rate is 41 percent. The guys that are coming out of the institute, the re-arrest rate is 12 percent.”
The official ribbon cutting for the new Homewood location was Monday, elected officials and community and foundation leaders were on hand along with several current and past TIP students and graduates.