Lisa Gilmore is a self-described jack-of-all-trades. She’s a seamstress, esthetician, hair stylist and, now, a student apprentice.
Over the next five weeks, Gilmore will work alongside 14 other students enrolled in PIT2Work, a pre-apprenticeship training program that gives participants access to the skills and certifications they will need to succeed in construction industry jobs.
Much of the program takes place at Pittsburgh International Airport, home to the Terminal Modernization Program, one of the biggest construction sites in the region. Scheduled to open in 2025, the new terminal is just one of the ways the airport is expanding its workforce.
“It’s inspiring because the airport is an important part of the city,” Gilmore said. “It’s growing and the construction trades are helping that growth more and more.”
Throughout the program, students will gain hands-on construction experience and connect to local unions through an on-site career fair. Upon graduation, they will receive personalized letters of recommendation and connections to local unions.
In September, PIT opened a new on-site childcare center for employees, and the airport advocated for rescheduled bus routes, helping to extend job opportunities to Pittsburghers who need public transportation.
“We created PIT2Work because we believe in equal access to opportunity,” said Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which operates PIT. “We want to make sure that more and more people in this region can access jobs at the airport.”
The newest PIT2Work class is made up of 15 students ranging in ages 18-52. Participants in the class hail from Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties. (Photo by Evan Dougherty)
The first group of PIT2Work students graduated in July, and 73 percent of them are already employed; many started working as soon as the Monday after graduation. The graduates were even recognized by the Pittsburgh Steelers through an invitation to training camp.
Following in their footsteps is a new group of 15 students, who started the program on Oct. 9. The cohort ranges in age from 18 to 52, and participants hail from Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties.
Alicia Booker, ACAA’s Director of Workforce Development, is eager to see the new cohort repeat the success of the first group.
“We want to continue to grow PIT2Work,” Booker said. “This is a model that represents what the airport can do for the community. It represents an opportunity for us to create access, to create that bridge into the airport and our growth right into the heart of the region.”
Cedric Ruffin had never visited the airport prior to starting PIT2Work. The hustle and bustle didn’t scare him off, though; he says he’s excited be in an environment full of people.
“This is all new to me. I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said. “I’m just ready to see what’s to come.”
Although Gilmore is new to PIT2Work, this isn’t her first experience with the Introduction to Construction Trades program, which partners with PIT2Work. In 2016, she was unable to complete the training after a life-threatening health issue.
But Gilmore didn’t give up.
“This is full circle for me,” she said. “I’m glad that I’m back. Back then, there weren’t as many choices or options, but now we’re at the airport. I feel like it’s another chance.”
As for Ruffin, his goal is to gain financial freedom and wake up every day excited to go to work. As a handyman and problem-solver, he feels like a career in the trades is a natural fit.
“I see myself being happy in what I’m doing,” he said. “I feel like the trades have been calling me.”
Booker shares the students’ excitement. Over the next five weeks, she’ll see them grow while they match what they’re trained to do with what they’re passionate about.
“I see an opportunity for the airport to continue to emphasize that it’s not about building the building,” Booker said. “It’s about building the region and building the people, and we can do that with projects like this.”