Emily Feroce has never worked in the construction industry, but a new program organized by the Allegheny County Airport Authority has put her on the fast track to a career in the building trades.
And just three days into the PIT2Work training program, she already has a pretty good idea of what she wants to do.
“I’m thinking about carpentry,” she said. “My dad had a cabinet shop.”
Feroce, of New Kensington, is one of about two dozen people enrolled in the first class of PIT2Work, which provides free training in the skills and certifications needed for jobs in the construction industry.
The Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania runs the training through its “Introduction to the Construction Trades” program. Upon completion, graduates earn letters of recommendation and connections to local unions. Best of all, they are invited to an on-site trades and career fair for union apprenticeship opportunities with contractors working on one of the biggest construction projects in Western Pennsylvania, PIT’s Terminal Modernization Program.
PIT’s new terminal, scheduled to open in 2025, is expected to generate approximately $2.5 billion in economic activity, including $1 billion in direct labor income. PIT2Work allows ACAA to amplify regional workforce development while the TMP is an active construction site.
“PIT2Work is an economic win for the region, creating access to immediate opportunity,” said ACAA CEO Christina Cassotis. “Its innovative training-to-work approach will also reduce barriers for people who aren’t as well represented as they could be on our campus, ultimately expanding the regional workforce and the skills provided by that workforce.”
Through ACAA’s partnership with nonprofit workforce development organization Partner4Work, tuition is covered through grants for eligible participants. Trainees also receive a daily stipend, in addition to accessible shuttle services that will take them to and from PIT.
The program includes one-on-one mentoring; introduction to various trades via guest speakers; hands-on instruction in tools and equipment at the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center; construction math for assessment; and various construction certifications to qualify the trainees for continued work.
The inaugural training class includes a diverse group of men and women ranging in age from 19-57 and representing Allegheny, Beaver and Westmoreland counties. They visited the TMP site for the first time on their third day in the program.
“It was pretty neat,” said Tawain Barlow of Bridgeville, one of the trainees. “Just to see the cranes and everything and the work being put in on what’s going to be the actual terminal.
“Just to be hands-on and actually see it is great.”
That ready access to a major project, with all the skilled tradespeople and laborers working on it, makes PIT2Work “one-of-a-kind training,” said Chaquita Barnett, program director for the Builders Guild.
“The participants are amazed at the scale of the TMP,” she said. “They’re impressed by the support of the entire airport authority and experiencing where they can one day have a career. This level of engagement is motivating, along with the aspect of perhaps working at the airport in the future.”
Cassotis sees PIT2Work, much like the TMP itself, as a regional asset that can drive the entire community forward. Ultimately, the goal is to have a positive ripple effect across all industries.
“Organizations like our partners Partner4Work, Builders Guild and Trade Institute of Pittsburgh provide job skills training and opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers,” she said. “Unions need more skilled workers for the many construction projects, like ours, that are underway in the region.”
Feroce is hoping to be one of those workers very soon.
“I’m really excited to get some certifications and learn about some different trades,” she said. “I’m excited to get into it. I just want to learn as much as I can.”