Amid building boom, 4,000 job-seekers swarm construction trades job fair in Pittsburgh
January 27, 2018 7:05 PM
By Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With the Pittsburgh region facing a building boom of hospitals, offices, apartment complexes and a $6 billion chemical plant, the construction industry got exactly what it wanted on Saturday.
More than 4,000 people crowded onto the mezzanine level of PPG Paints Arena for a job fair organized by the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania. Over five hours, people filed through a long hallway of tables with about 35 vendors, including building trade unions, construction companies, community colleges and social service and community organizations.
The Construction Trades Career Workshop was a rare opportunity for job-seekers to connect with all the groups involved in the workforce development push in one place.
“The opportunities in the construction trades and industry are at record levels and we see no slowing of the non-residential growth that’s fueling this historic demand,” said Jeff Nobers, executive director of the Builders Guild.
“As an industry, we believed it was important to create and sponsor an event that would provide people with the information they need to apply and be accepted into the trades apprenticeship training programs.”
The crowd began to gather at the arena’s entrance at 9 a.m. — an hour before the event was scheduled to start, Mr. Nobers said.. It was evident the turnout exceeded expectations, as the space, at times, was crammed with people filing down a long hallway of vendors.
For years, the Pittsburgh region’s construction industry has appealed for more workers as a long list of building projects got longer. Royal Dutch Shell’s ethane cracker plant in Beaver County could need 6,000 construction workers, in addition to three new specialty hospitals announced in November by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The builders guild, a nonprofit of 16 trade unions and six contractor associations, operates more than a dozen joint apprenticeship training centers — for carpenters, operating engineers, iron workers and electricians, to name a few.
Apprenticeships, particularly in the construction industry, are increasingly seen by workforce officials as a way to connect job-seekers to a stable career. Apprentices, if their application is accepted by the union, work on projects alongside other employees and earn pay and benefits during a training period that can last from three to five years.
Last week, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a nonprofit promoting business investment in southwestern Pennsylvania, discussed a report showing an 80,000-worker shortfall in the region by 2025.
At the job fair, Mark Watson sat down with a bag full of brochures. The Penn Hills resident, who arrived in Pittsburgh from his native Jamaica about four years ago, said he has been working as a utility meter technician, installing digital smart meters for Peoples Natural Gas.
“That was temporary,” Mr. Watson said. “I’m looking for more of a permanent career.”
First Published January 27, 2018 7:05 PM