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Apprentice Profiles

Thinking about making a bold career move by entering the construction trades? Entering one of our training programs is not unlike pursuing a college career; with one huge difference. There is no cost for the training and you are paid while in the program, along with health and pension benefits!

Take a look at the Apprentice Profiles below and see what some of our program participants have achieved.

BG Don Pohlit

1st year apprentice, Cement Masons Local 526

Coming out of Somerset County Technical Center Don knew as a high school senior he wanted a career in the construction industry. 

“I never saw myself as someone who would go to an office every day or work indoors,” he said. “My masonry instructor was instrumental in helping me determine the best path to take as I left school and clearly that was entering the apprenticeship program and becoming a member of local 526.”

What he found at Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons Local Union #526 was a comprehensive training program, people dedicated to their craft, and open to helping him become the best professional tradesperson he can be.

“The training both from a skill and safety standpoint is very thorough; plus I’m getting paid a great hourly rate as an apprentice and I have full health care coverage and great pension benefits,” he said.  “It’s letting me get a tremendous head start on building a sustainable career that I have great pride in.”

Don also enjoys the camaraderie on the job-site and the fact that at the end of each day he sees progress and accomplishment from his day’s work. 

“I just don’t think you would get that same sense of satisfaction and the relationships in any other career.”  

BG Rukiya Smith

1st Year Apprentice, Operating Engineers Local #66

Ruyika hit a point in her life where she knew she had to make a change; personally and in finding a career.

“I had really just bounced through life with some personal struggles and other issues that were of my own making,” she said.  “It’s not like I had some sudden flash, but I knew if I wanted to make the best possible life for my kids, and myself, I had to dedicate myself to change.”

Rukiya enrolled in a heavy equipment CDL program and used that experience to apply and be accepted into the Operating Engineers Joint Apprenticeship Training Program.  That decision has been life-changing for her and her kids.

“I had some legal issues and really wasn’t sure I would get the chance, but I knew I had to try, and the people here at the training center were very encouraging and welcomed me into their family,” she said.  “They are very supportive and nonjudgemental and help all of the apprentices be all that we can possibly be.  For the first time in my life I believe there are people who really want to see me succeed.”

Today Rukiya is earning more in a few hours than she did during an entire shift tending bar, plus she has comprehensive health care for her family, as well as pension and annuity plans that will provide for her long-term.

She says with all candor that entering the Operating Engineers Program has truly transformed her life and makes her a role model to her children and other young people who have had similar experiences to hers.

“The day I was accepted into the program I said to a few fellow apprentices that this is the first day of changing my life.  It has, and I couldn’t be happier.”

BG Christina Schumpert

3rd Year Apprentice, Cement Masons Local 526

Christina didn’t know much about the trades and assumed some construction experience was necessary to be accepted into an apprentice program. 

“I was working as a short order cook and bartender, when a co-worker of mine entered the cement masons program,” she said. “He really encouraged me to apply; he said it would be life changing.”

Fast forward three years and Christina has no regrets at all.

“I’ve learned so much about this craft and myself, and there are endless opportunities to advance or take your career into very specialized areas.”

Christina has come to appreciate the true artistic aspects of masonry and credits the journeymen she works with daily for sharing their knowledge and skill. She also thinks it’s a great career for women. 

“Women should not be intimidated by this or any trade; we are just as capable and it’s truly a career that allows you to better your life in so many ways.”

BG Hannah Grey

3rd Year Apprentice, KML Regional Council of Carpenters

Hannah grew up in a historic home in New England with carpentry in her blood, yet decided to earn a degree in interior design. Upon graduating from college, Hannah joined an architecture firm, but something seemed to be missing for her.

“While I was working at the architecture firm, I discovered a program at the carpenters training center for architects and designers,” she said. “The basis of the program was too show us the real-world applications of what we designed, but for me it rekindled that love of carpentry too.” 

Hannah found the instructors to be extremely knowledgeable and in less than a year she applied and was accepted into the commercial carpentry program.

“I am honored to tell others I am a union tradesperson,” she said. “In a world that is flooded with technology, I enjoy being a member of an industry that relies on the importance of hand craftsmanship and personal skill."

BG Anthony Brown

1st Year Apprentice, Cement Masons Local #526

Anthony was attracted to the Mason’s by his cousin who studied masonry at his high school’s Career Technical Center. But, before he applied for the apprentice program, he had to convince his parents it was the right move.

“My parents’ wanted me to go to college, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to establish a career and start my adult life and the Mason’s apprentice program gave me that opportunity.”

Anthony says what’s impressed him most is the amount of learning and technical skill necessary to be a professional mason. 

“It’s much more than you might imagine, but it’s taught very well and I can already see how much I’ve progressed,” he said. “Plus, I really like being involved in large projects like the Interstate 279 rehabilitation; it’s really gratifying to be involved in this.”

BG Chris Alexandroff

4th Year Apprentice, Insulators Local #2

With a two-year associate’s degree, Chris embarked on a career in the food brokerage industry. Rising to Project Manager Chris believed he was on the path to continued earnings and promotions. 

“What I found at the age of 30 was that I was maxed out on opportunities to grow in that industry and with that company,” he said.

Through friends, he discovered the construction trades.

“As I investigated the trades generally I saw long-term stability, great retirement benefits and comprehensive health care coverage,” he noted. “Initially I earned a little less on the wage side, but immediately had far better benefits. Just a year or so later I was making more money too.”

Chris especially likes the camaraderie and lack of “politics” in the trades. 

“No one is trying to step over you, but instead we all look out for one another and help each other to grow.”

BG Paul Rodriguez

Step 1 Apprentice, Laborers of Western Pennsylvania

Paul had previous experience as a union craftsman having worked for a large electrical manufacturer. While his wages were good, he also faced the ongoing possibility of being laid-off. He made the move to the Laborers Union to gain long-term stability.

“Initially the hourly wage is lower, but the health and pension are far superior,” said Paul. “And as I look at it, I’ll be at the same pay level in a fairly short time, so overall it’s a great move for me.”

Paul also enjoys the variety of skills he is learning as a Laborer; from masonry work to asbestos abatement and environmental work. 

“The training and scope of work that we do is exciting and keeps us in great demand.”

BG Duane Menzer

Step 4 Apprentice, Laborers of Western Pennsylvania

Duane was working non-union construction, and while his hourly rate is initially lower, the Laborers offer health and pension benefits that are virtually unheard of in non-union construction. He’s also focused on the long-term.

“There’s a stability here in the Laborers and they have a great relationship with contractors which creates on-going opportunities,” he said. “The training is extensive and really prepares you for the job site.”

Duane also likes the discipline the Laborers instill in their apprentices, keeping everyone focused and committed to a high level of performance and quality work.

BG Ulysses Davis

4th Year Apprentice, Insulators Local #2

With an 11-year career in the restaurant industry, starting as a server and rising to manager, Ulysses had tired of the long and odd hours as well as compensation and benefits that didn’t match the 70 to 90-hour work weeks that were common.

“It was time for me to find a sustainable career where I could earn the kind of money and benefits that would allow me to provide a far better than average life for my wife and kids, and to spend far more time with them,” he said. “I wasn’t all that familiar with the construction trades, and there have been some good surprises as I’ve gone through my apprenticeship.”

Among those, Ulysses says, are the amount of teaching and learning, and the commitment of the people he works with.

“There’s a great togetherness and it feels good to have people interested in your progress and who are passionate about their chosen career,” he said. “There’s no question that from my fellow classmates, to the instructors, to the union leaders, everyone wants me to be successful. This career is making a great life for me and my family.”

BG Jessica Yochum

4th Year Apprentice, Insulators Local #2

As a single parent, Jessica worked hard to support her family; working side jobs and trying her hand at her own business as well. It was a struggle, and the lack of quality healthcare and no true path for future growth led her to take her father’s advice and apply for the Insulators apprentice program.

“I was never the type that liked the idea of working for someone else. I liked my independence,” she said. “That’s maybe the best part about this career; while I’m part of something bigger than just me, I still feel very independent.”

Initially, she wasn’t sure what it would be like as a woman in the trades, but any preconceptions were quickly put to rest.

“From day one I have felt acceptance. I was a bit nervous and felt I’d have to do more than a guy to prove myself, but that was never, ever an issue. My only regret is that I didn’t get into this trade sooner. I have a great income, healthcare, and other benefits, and a long-term sustainable career.”

BG Tyler Kaufman

4th Year Apprentice, Sheet Metal Workers Local #12

During high school, Tyler attended the Butler County Area Career Technical Center (CTC) HVAC program. In time, he saw the natural progression that led from HVAC training into the sheet metal trade.

“As I considered the career I wanted it became clear to me that entering the JATC and union would offer me the best training and career opportunities,” he said. “There was also the fact of higher pay, as well as tremendous health care coverage, and pension and retirement benefits.”

Tyler has embraced not only his training but the brotherhood and camaraderie of being a member of Local #12. “These are without question some the nicest and real people I have ever met. I truly look forward to going to work every day,” he noted.

Tyler has excelled and is his apprentice class President, a true measure of his leadership skills.

BG Thomas Lokomski

4th Year Apprentice, Roofers Local Union #37

You could say Thomas has construction in his blood. When he was younger, his father owned a small construction company, giving him a taste of the construction industry early on. In time, he found that he really enjoyed the challenges and skill that went into being a roofer, but working non-union he wasn’t earning an equitable wage, had few if any benefits, and most importantly, he was not being trained.

“When I filled out my application here at Local 37, there was a question that asked why you wanted to be a roofer,” he remembered. “I answered, the pursuit of knowledge. My apprenticeship has been a tremendous experience, I’ve learned so much and the willingess of the journeymen to teach has been unbelievable.”

Thomas said being a member of Local 37 shows others that he is not just labor, but a skilled professional who’s dedicated to his craft.

BG Sean Wilkerson

4th Year Apprentice, Sheet Metal Workers Local #12

Sean was searching for a sustainable career where he could earn the type of income and benefits that would allow him to take better care of his family. “I bounced from job to job; nothing that was really going to be a career or build the type of life I wanted for my kids,” he said. 

A family friend suggested Sean consider joining the apprentice program with the Sheet Metal Workers. 

“I knew nothing about sheet metal work or being in a union,” he said. “But, I’m sure glad I took the advice. I’ve learned a lot about being a professional tradesman and building a career. My life and that of my family are going very well now, and that’s directly because of this opportunity and what I’m learning.” 

BG Roy Pierce

4th Year Apprentice, Sheet Metal Workers Local #12

After leaving the United States Air Force, Roy was faced with finding a career that would allow him to care for his family, including nearly newborn twins. He never really considered the construction trades to be a career, but through the encouragement of a friend, he decided to see what the trades had to offer.

“I considered a handful of the construction trades and their programs before hitting upon the sheet metal workers,” Roy said. “I really liked the variety of skill needed to be a successful sheet metal worker; especially the CAD work and design aspect. That’s what I would like to do long term.”

Roy is happy with the decision he made four years ago, and if he had any doubts at first, he now clearly knows “…this is a true career, not just a job, it’s been tremendous.”

BG Lamire Redman

1st Year Apprentice, Bricklayer, BAC Local #9

Lamire always dreamed of a solid future where he could build a great career and learn a lifelong skill. “In my neighborhood, there weren’t a lot of choices,” said Lamarie. “And the ones that presented themselves were not going to lead me to a successful life.”

Lamire always liked working with his hands, working on his house, and to help others with their homes. What he didn’t realize was the skill, the art, of bricklaying. He says with a chuckle that the first wall he built  “…quickly fell down.

Lamire learned that he could accomplish his goals through the Bricklayers apprenticeship program. “Being a part of this program has made a huge difference in my life in every way,” he said.  “There’s always something to learn, there’s a bond between the apprentices and journeymen, and I’m focused on building an honest career.” 

BG Jake Quinlan

2nd Year Apprentice, Bricklayer, BAC Local #9

Early on, Jake knew he wanted to be in a trade. After studying carpentry at A.W. Beattie Technical School, he tried his hand at metal fabrication, roofing, and general remodeling. While he enjoyed working with his hands, and the gratitude of seeing what he accomplished, he still hadn’t found his passion. 

“Bricklaying was in my blood,” he said, noting that both his dad and uncle are bricklayers. “They never pressured me into this craft, but I certainly knew quite a lot about it and eventually it just seemed like a natural fit.” 

Jake said the best thing about his chosen career is that he enjoys getting to the job site every day and being able to apply and improve his skills. “It’s so much more than people think, it’s an art, a true craft.”

BG Dominic Geraci

4th Year Apprentice, Steamfitters #449

Dominic worked non-union construction for several years and had the chance to work with a lot of union trade ‘fitters’ during that time.

“The more I talked to these folks, the more it made sense for me to look at getting into the apprentice program and get the training I needed to make this a true career,” he said. “That was the part missing working non-union; the training just wasn’t there so you never really progressed. Add to that the increased wages and benefits and it was an easy decision.”

Beyond learning the skills to be a trade professional, Dominic appreciates the bonding of being a member of the Local #449. He says it’s like being on a sports team with everyone supporting each other and helping each other to be at their best.

Dominic also appreciates the safety of a union job site. “We are highly trained in every aspect of safety and everyone takes that very, very seriously and that makes for a more productive and satisfying place to work.”

BG Jordan Coffey

1st Year Apprentice, Operating Engineers Local #66

Jordan had a background in the trades as his grandmother owns a commercial cleaning company that does a lot of work cleaning and maintaining job sites. Yet, he had a desire to move out on his own in the trades. 

“I was accepted into the ‘Intro to the Trades Program’ at the Energy Innovation Center,” said Jordan. The program gave me the opportunity to look at all of the trades, as well as to refresh my math and overall comprehension skills, and that was important in passing the operators entrance exam.”

Jordan said the program also taught him the team-oriented approach needed to be successful and to better understand the level of dedication and desire it takes to be successful. “The EIC program really put me on a path to success, and the training I’m receiving at the Operating Engineers will allow me to succeed in a great career.”

BG Heath Cawley

2nd Year Apprentice, Tile Setter, BAC Local #9

Heath spent several years in the foodservice industry, leaving the field in 2007 to exchange the long and odd hours to be home with her then young children. In addition to raising her kids, she also did a lot of remodeling work on her house. She found she truly loved working with her hands, especially the art of tile setting.

“It’s the type of craft where you can be highly imaginative and you get to see the results very vividly,” she said. “There is something very special about seeing what you’ve worked on and the pride in knowing that it was done with the utmost care and commitment.”

Heath knew tile setting was the career path for her so she joined the tile setter apprenticeship program with Bricklayers & Allied Crafts Local #9. There she is receiving the training to become a highly skilled professional -- turning her passion into a long-term, well-paying career.

BG Zachary Babich

1st Year Apprentice, Operating Engineers Local #66

After graduating from college with a Business Management degree, Zachary went to work in the typical office setting. “I didn’t like it at all,” he said matter-of-factly, “I had always operated farm equipment helping farmers in the area where I grew up, and I liked doing that.”

As a retired union tradesman, Zachary’s dad knew several members of Local #66 and suggested Zachary consider the career potential as an operating engineer.

“It was a great opportunity being accepted into this training program,” he said. “I’ve learned so much already as it relates to teamwork and dedication to a profession, and we are thoroughly trained on multiple pieces of equipment and safety, something I did not get working non-union.”

BG Jessica Traynor

4th Year Apprentice, Welder, Steamfitters Local #449

Jessica was working in a ‘job’ that was unexciting. On top of that, she says she was making minimum wage with no prospects to grow either professionally or financially. A family friend, a retired Steamfitter, told her she would never regret giving the apprentice training program a shot.

“He was absolutely correct, and it’s really incredible what I’ve been able to do,” she said. “I’ve learned a life-long professional skill, I earn five times what I used to, and I have great benefits.  Truly life changing for me and my son.”

Jessica says more women should consider the trades as a career. “I think women fear the physicality of the profession, which I did too, but now that I’ve been doing this for four years I can honestly say it’s not something I even think about …it’s just what I do.” 

BG Simeon Barnett

1st Year Apprentice, Operating Engineers Local #66

A Pittsburgh native, Simeon was working in South Florida in a warehouse distribution job. A desire to build a career, and to return home, led him to the Operating Engineers training program.

“I took the entrance exam for another trade and passed, but I was not in any way prepared for the interview process,” he said. “People need to know that just applying does not get you into the trades.  It’s truly a profession and the trades are very thorough in screening applicants.”

Simeon entered the “Intro to the Trades Program” at the Energy Innovation Center and credits that program with exposing him to other trades, as well as preparing him for the interview process and improving his interpersonal communication skills.

“The EIC program made all the difference,” he said. “And the training I’m receiving here at Local 66 is just really incredible.”

BG Brittany Marsh

1st Year Apprentice, Sheet Metal Workers Local #12

Brittany knew early on that a career in the skilled trades was for her. She just wasn’t sure what path she wanted to take. While attending a trade school for welding, Brittany took a class tour of the Sheet Metal Workers Joint Apprenticeship Training Center. That tour was the spark that led her to become a Sheet Metal Worker.

“I knew I didn’t want to weld as a career, but it was a good basis to get an understanding of what being a professional tradesperson was all about,” she said. “I never realized how involved sheet metal work could be. I found it really interesting and decided this is what I want to do.”

Brittany sees a clear career path, and long-term hopes to move into an apprentice coordinator, recruitment, and training position.     

BG Bill Gregg2

1st Year Apprentice, Operating Engineers Local #66

Bill worked as a farmer and a service crew lead at a regional steel mill, but he always had a desire to operate heavy equipment. After talking through the benefits of the Local #66 apprenticeship program with his brother in law, he decided to make the move.

“My brother-in-law is a member of Local 66 and always seemed to love what he was doing,” Bill said. “The more we talked the more I realized that I could really build a career as an operator, not just have a job.”

The wages and benefits are far better than I had, but what’s most important is the training really has further fueled my passion for this profession.”

BG Curtis Reed3rd Year Apprentice, KML Regional Council of Carpenters

Curtis had some 14 years of experience in the building materials business, including being the owner of a small construction firm. As his family grew, and the demands of balancing work and family became greater, he decided it was time to follow the advice of many Union Trade Carpenters he had met over the years.

“Joining the apprentice program allowed me to gain more skill and expertise while continuing to do what I truly have a passion for, carpentry,” said Curtis. “What’s most inspiring to me about the training is how the journeymen invest their time in the apprentices and instill in us the skill, discipline and responsibility that allows us to build successful careers.”  Curtis, too, has that commitment, reaching out to kids in his community, and helping them realize the opportunities available in the construction trades.

BG Breanna1st Year Apprentice, Operating Engineers Local #66

Working full-time in the fast food industry and as a part-time clerk at a feed and supply store, Breanna was searching for a true career path.

“I operated some small equipment at the feed store and was pretty good at it. My boyfriend suggested I look into this as a profession,” she said. “Now I see a great future for myself with great compensation and benefits doing something I really love."

Brenna encourages more women to look into the trades, especially as an Operating Engineer. “…it’s an interesting career, you learn and use technology and the people I work with are just great.”