On Friday, May 13th, ComEd, Nicor Gas, 25 construction industry companies, and 6 social service agencies held a special ceremony for 71 participants who have successfully completed CONSTRUCT, an 11-week job training program that offers participants the information and guidance needed to compete for entry-level jobs in construction-related fields.
The 71 most recent participants were part of the third group of participants to go through CONSTRUCT thus far. The program is designed to address the construction industry’s overall need to increase the pool of qualified minority candidates for construction jobs in Illinois. Career guidance, life skills training, and practical education about the construction industry are part of the program, as well as increased knowledge of requirements for entering construction-related fields successfully.
CONSTRUCT offers instruction and access to special sessions where students can hear from and meet company representatives. There is the opportunity to job shadow, and to attend a career awareness fair to learn about a range of potential job opportunities in the industry.
80 percent of previous participants have been offered employment. The success of this program is due in great measure to the construction industry companies that want to help, and are looking for good people to join an industry that is growing.
ComEd, Nicor Gas, Aldridge, Asplundh, BarTech, Burling Builders, David Mason & Associates, d’Escoto, Inc., F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen, Groundhog Utility Construction Inc., HBK Engineering, Henkels & McCoy, INTREN, Inc., Lindblad Construction Company of Joliet, LiveWire, Meade, Millhouse Engineering & Construction, Inc., MJ Electric, MZI Group, Nash Brothers Construction Company, Osmose Utilities Services, Peoples’ Gas, PMI Energy Solutions, LLC, Trice Construction Company, The Roderick Group, USIC, V3 Companies and The Will Group are supporting this program.
Having electric utility ComEd, which serves nearly four million customers across northern Illinois, join forces with Nicor Gas and Peoples’ Gas, to continue this life-changing program is a testament to their understanding of and diligence in fulfilling their commitment to communities.
“As we focus on the next generation of the energy industry, we must also build a workforce that is technologically skilled, innovative and diverse,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd. “This program has been very successful in placing graduates in career path jobs. Simply put, CONSTRUCT works.”
“CONSTRUCT allows participants the ability to build a strong educational foundation and pursue a meaningful career, while strengthening communities and contributing to the economic growth of our state,” said Pat Whiteside, vice president of Business Support, Nicor Gas.
“CONSTRUCT is a win-win for everyone,” said Lori Flores Rolfson, vice president operations and maintenance for Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. “The program helps participants receive valuable and practical training to expand their career opportunities. And it helps the sponsoring companies by creating a pool of qualified job applicants, which is especially important as a large portion of our workforce becomes eligible for retirement.”
CONSTRUCT is run in parallel at six sites across the Chicagoland area by ASPIRA of Illinois, Austin Peoples Action Center, Chicago Urban League, National Latino Education Institute, Quad County Urban League and YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. These agencies will help identify and train the program participants using various common eligibility and completion requirements, and are committed to working with each participant to provide job counseling and placement services.
“I would recommend this program to anyone,” said Koran Ward, CONSTRUCT program graduate. “It doesn’t matter what you know because they teach you what you need to know to have a successful career.”
“I really wanted to see and be hands on what for we were expected to learn,” said Novelis Gonzales, another CONSTRUCT program graduate. “I really believe that if you have a dream, you have to go after it.”
Understanding the need to help knock down barriers to entry for construction-related fields, CONSTRUCT launched in May 2013 out of a partnership between ComEd, INTREN and the labor unions. What began with ComEd, 10 companies and three social service agencies has grown to include Nicor Gas, Peoples’ Energy, 25 companies and six social service agencies.
CONSTRUCT is part of CareerPower, ComEd’s set of jobs initiatives. IBEW locals 9, 15, 134, 196, and the Laborers' District Council of Chicago & Vicinity have voiced their support, and have been critical in the ability to move the program forward.
For some legislative leaders in Illinois, this special collaboration is a significant step toward addressing a long-standing need.
“CONSTRUCT is an example of the kind of corporate citizenship that can have long-term impacts on communities for many years to come,” said State Representative Elizabeth Hernandez. “I applaud every company and agency involved for making these important investments in people’s lives.”
“I commend ComEd and all the companies that have participated in CONSTRUCT to bring early construction career training to men and women in the Chicago area,” said 6th Ward Alderman Rod Sawyer. “The participants are finding opportunities to work at utilities and construction companies. These are jobs they may not have considered or been qualified for without the training.”
To complete the program, participants must attend at least 95 percent of all full class days and have taken select tests, among other things. Upon completion of the program, participants can choose any number of career paths, from applying to work with the participating companies and satisfying any applicable union requirements, to applying to ComEd or employers in other sectors.
While completion of the program does not guarantee a job, individuals who complete the program successfully are expected to be qualified, knowledgeable, and ready to compete for construction jobs in Illinois.