Lisa Gilmore started PIT2Work as a second chance to entering the trades. Five weeks later, she is on her way to starting a career with the Painters Union.
Gilmore is one of 14 PIT2Work graduates, all of whom gathered at a commencement ceremony on Monday alongside Allegheny County Airport Authority leaders, regional executives and union representatives in celebration of their achievements.
The pre-apprenticeship training program, organized by ACAA and the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania’s “Introduction to the Construction Trades,” was designed to give participants access to the skills they need to succeed in the trades. Now, it’s wrapped up a second round.
Throughout the five-week program, PIT2Work participants attended an on-site career fair, visited local unions, earned construction certifications and underwent classes in construction math, all to help prepare them for their future careers. The second group echoes the success of the first group, most of whom have already started careers in the trades since graduating in July.
At the commencement ceremony, the graduates, a diverse group of men and one woman ranging in age from 18 to 52, received numerous certifications, construction equipment and a personalized recommendation letter from ACAA CEO Christina Cassotis.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald called PIT2Work a “groundbreaking, innovative and state-of-the-art program,” noting two recent White House visits to Pittsburgh that centered around this workforce development program.
“We had the opportunity last week to greet First Lady Jill Biden along with Secretary [Julie] Su from the Department of Labor as they came to Pittsburgh again for the second time in a couple of months to highlight this program, wanting this program to be replicated across the country,” he said.
When she visited the airport in June, Biden called the program “historic.” And, during their five weeks at the airport, PIT2Work participants do get to be part of history. They spend time on the Terminal Modernization Program site, one of the biggest construction projects in the region.
Paul Hoback, ACAA’s chief development officer and executive vice president, considers time spent on the new terminal one important piece of the graduates’ futures.
“The legacy is not about what’s being built out there. The legacy is about what’s being built in the room today,” he said. “The best is yet to come for our airport, the best is yet to come for our region and the best is yet to come for each and every one of you who made the bold decision to invest in your future.”
Students from PIT2Work’s second graduating class pose for a photo with regional executives and union leaders during a commencement ceremony on Nov. 13, 2023. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)
County Executive-Elect Sara Innamorato sees value in the airport’s commitment to workforce development. During her speech at the commencement ceremony, she explained how PIT2Work not only benefits Allegheny County, but the Western Pennsylvania region as a whole.
“This is about modernizing our workforce to reflect who we are today and who we want to be in the future,” Innamorato said. “This is about creating a thriving city, a thriving region that not only builds up the economy here in Allegheny County but is going to be an amazing opportunity to bolster the economies of the surrounding counties.”
After five weeks of hard work, 19-year-old graduate Steven Connors understands the value of the program. He recently left community college, unsure of what to expect next. Then, he found PIT2Work and set off to start a career in construction: a daunting challenge that ended with a perfect attendance record and speech at his graduation ceremony.
“After finishing this program, the parts of this industry that I dreaded were not scary at all anymore,” Connors said. “I truly believe that because I chose to fill out an application, make the effort to show up every day and was willing to learn, that my life will be changed for the better.”