First Class Graduates Airport’s PIT2Work Program

By Matt Neistei

Published July 31, 2023

Read Time: 3 mins


After five weeks in an innovative workforce development program hosted by Pittsburgh International Airport, Cory Brown is feeling optimistic about his future for the first time in a long while.

“I have been working a dead-end job, living paycheck to paycheck for years,” said Brown, of Duquesne. “But with the potential and opportunities that the construction trades provide, I do feel as though I will be set for life, not only for myself but for my family.”

On Friday, Brown was one of the first 12 people to graduate from PIT2Work, which is organized by the Allegheny County Airport Authority and operated by the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania through its “Introduction to the Construction Trades” program.

In a visit to PIT a week earlier, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden praised the program that gives participants a fast track to careers in the building trades.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald spoke at the commencement ceremony held at the airport’s Hyatt Regency, recalling Biden’s visit and what it meant for PIT2Work’s future not just regionally, but nationally.

“The White House is looking at this program and trying to use it as a model for other places around the country,” he said. “So for you 12 graduates … you’re part of something historic.”

The first PIT2Work cohort was a diverse group of men and women ranging in age from 18 to 50. As part of their graduation, they earned letters of recommendation from ACAA CEO Christina Cassotis.

Just days earlier, they attended a career fair held by local construction firms and unions. Ron Sapp, a program administrator with the Builders Guild and member of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66, said they made an incredible impression on industry representatives.

In fact, several participants were ready to start new jobs the next week.

“That’s my favorite thing, is when someone graduates on a Friday and starts work on a Monday,” Fitzgerald quipped. “That’s the best thing we can do.”

One of the graduates noted the experience he gained during PIT2Work wasn’t just about learning tools or safety protocols—it was the exposure to different industries and worksites that helped him choose a path forward.

“I have visited union training sites that I never knew about before coming here, from laborers, painters, carpenters and operators … I will be starting the laborers’ union on Monday,” said Tawain Barlow, of Bridgeville.

The first PIT2Work cohort was a diverse group of men and women ranging in age from 18 to 50. As part of their graduation, they earned letters of recommendation from ACAA CEO Christina Cassotis. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

As part of the five weeks of training, the cohort also received one-on-one mentoring; hands-on instruction in tools and equipment; learned construction math for assessment; and various construction certifications to qualify them for continued work, including CPR and flagging.

They also spent time on the site of the Terminal Modernization Program, PIT’s $1.4 billion project to construct a new terminal and Multi-Modal Center that is expected to generate approximately $2.5 billion in economic activity, including $1 billion in direct labor income.

Paul Hoback, ACAA’s Chief Development Officer and Executive Vice President, said he hoped the visits to the construction site were a preview of the future.

“The training that you received in this program and the connections you made have opened opportunities for you to pursue rewarding careers in the building trades,” he said. “You have made in an investment in your future and the future of your families.”

Along with Sapp, Builders Guild program director Chaquita Barnett and Patriece Thompson, community and citizenship manager for Turner Construction, offered strong encouragement for the graduates, lauding their commitment to the program despite early starts and long hours.

They also praised the partnerships with industry and community organizations that helped drive PIT2Work. Along with the Builders Guild, groups like Partner4Work, Trade Institute of Pittsburgh and the Urban League offered resources and training.

In fact, the Urban League surprised six graduates chosen by random drawing with $100 gift certificates for Carhartt, the popular workwear brand, so they could begin to outfit themselves for their new careers.

Go to Top