Airport’s PIT2Work Program Launches Careers in Trades

5-week class connects new workers with unions, employers

By Julie Bercik

Published March 11, 2024

Read Time: 2 mins


Carrie Francis felt nervous as she used a welding torch for the first time, but she needn’t have worried.

“She picked up right away on everything I was giving her,” said Eddie Green, Francis’ instructor at Steamfitters Technology Center Local 449. “Within five to six minutes of training, she excelled, and I was very impressed.”

Francis was grateful for the praise.

“I don’t think anyone has told me I’m a natural at anything, especially something like this,” she said. But Green was bullish on her future as a welder.

“If she can learn this way with just a few demos here and there, what is she going to be able to do in 18 weeks?” he said.

Francis is a participant in PIT2Work, a five-week pre-apprenticeship training program at Pittsburgh International Airport. She signed up because she’s looking for a new career.

“I had been struggling with my mental health… Through talking with my therapist, I realized that I was not happy with my career,” Francis said.

She stared working with a career counselor, met Chaquita Barnett – a PIT2Work instructor known as Miss Chaquita to participants – and applied for the program. When she got the call that she had been accepted, it was an emotional moment.

“I’m actually doing this. This isn’t just an idea that I had,” she said.


Providing opportunity

PIT2Work is focused on providing students with opportunities, training, education and confidence to pursue a career in the trades.

Since PIT2Work launched in the summer of 2023, 25 men and women have graduated from the program. Almost all are now employed or in a registered apprenticeship program.

The third PIT2Work class started in late February. The program – hosted by PIT in partnership with Partner4Work and Pittsburgh Gateways – comes at no cost to participants, and no prior training, work experience or skills are required to enroll.

PIT2Work gives participants training, connections to local unions and learning experience at one of the biggest construction projects in Western Pennsylvania, the new airport terminal. Students also learn at union facilities like the Steamfitters training center.

The program has been recognized by the White House and recently received the annual W.O. Lawton Business Leadership Award from the National Association of Workforce Boards, which honors a business or business organization that made the commitment of time, money and leadership to make its community’s workforce and economy more vibrant.

“It’s helping me with my personal and professional development, my mind, the way I think, how I want to progress, [and] the steps that I need to progress,” PIT2Work student Kaheem Tucker said.

Kaheem was encouraged to apply by Antoine Long, a recent PIT2Work graduate who is now building PIT’s new terminal as a first-year apprentice with the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local 37. Student Troy Buefort was also motivated by Antoine’s story.

“I want to go as far as I can with this program. I’ve seen someone actually reap the benefits and they actually have a job at the airport. It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Bueford.

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