06/20/2012 07:08 pm ET Updated Aug 21, 2012

Training The Next Generation Of Skilled Tradespersons

We at the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh want to give young men and women a chance to develop skills in the trades; making them employable, and giving them a chance to increase their earning potential. This gives those non-college bound individuals, or those who have made a mistake in their past, an opportunity outside of the minimum wage job market. We hire top notch instructors. It is widely recognized that we are currently in need of the next generation of tradespersons. Just ask any high quality contractor. Students work in an intensive 10 week, 40 hour/week hands on program based out of a training room inside Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg, PA. who donated the space to me.

With the nation's current unemployment rate above 8 percent, and our local Western Penn. unemployment rate at 8.5%+, there is an opportunity to start training a qualified workforce for the recovery of our economy. Beyond these statistics, the Trade Institute has recognized a glaring need for training of our formerly incarcerated young men. On average, it costs the State of Pennsylvania over $44,000 per year to incarcerate an individual. With a recidivism rate approaching 60 percent, we must find ways to better engage this population and properly prepare them for a life that does not include crime. The Trade Institute has opened its doors to many students with criminal backgrounds in the past and will continue to include these students; should they have the desire and the abilities.

Potential students come from many sources -- social services, renewal, industry contacts, etc.
Each of these candidates goes through the same application process. An interested candidate is asked to complete a formal application, where they provide both personal and professional
background information. Following the application, each candidate meets in person with Steve
Shelton. Mr. Shelton takes this opportunity to learn more about the candidate's background
while explaining the details of the program and the potential outcomes.

As students progress in the 10 weeks, it is amazing to see the talent that emerges as they work
on projects that are challenging for any journeyman bricklayer let alone a guy who just picked up the tools for the first time, a short time ago. We see the pride they take in the work building walls and other projects, that stretch their abilities.

As a student nears graduation, we begin contacting potential employers to notify them of the
candidate. The employer then has an opportunity to come to the classroom, see the student at work and talk with the potential candidate. This process has worked well to date, and the Trade
Institute anticipates continued support from the industry as graduates begin to successfully fill

Since my primary expertise is in masonry, we began the training with that trade. However, my
goal is to incorporate other trades, welding, plastering, HVAC, and any other trade badly in need of a new generation of skilled professionals, and we are working to that end; hoping for help from local government and private sector resources to expand the vision into a state of the art training facility.