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As Job Prospects Open Up, Carpenters Union Offers Job Seekers More Opportunity


In 2021, the number of jobs in Philadelphia increased by 4.4% and residents now find themselves with several new career opportunities. 

Rob Smith, supervisor of instruction for the Northeast Carpenters Apprentice Training Fund, is hoping some of these new job seekers may be interested in pursuing carpentry. According to Smith, this could be an especially lucrative career right now thanks to the passing of the federal $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Nov. 15. The bill was created to allocate money toward structural improvements in areas such as transportation and utilities, many of which will require the help of skilled carpenters. With the signing of the bill, construction jobs are set to be in high demand.

Angela Hendrix, director of training and workforce development at General Building and Contractors Association, said this could be an especially good opportunity for Philadelphia residents who bypassed the traditional college path.

“A carpentry apprenticeship is not like a normal college or postsecondary education opportunity, where you're accruing a ton of debt,” Hendrix said. “You immediately start working and making money. It’s an incredible opportunity for somebody who wants to work with their hands.”

Hendrix said before pursuing a carpentry apprenticeship, people should first learn essential math and hands-on skills needed for the job. The best starting point is to find an apprenticeship readiness program such as the eight-week Carpenters Apprenticeship Ready Program

Within this program, Hendrix said, individuals work with a mentor to participate in jobs throughout the Philadelphia community and attain the skills required for a carpentry career. The instruction is provided by experienced carpenters who have helped develop the curriculum and are on hand to support participants throughout the eight weeks. Upon completion of the program, participants take part in an interview and skills assessment so that they can be prepared to receive a sponsorship as an apprentice. 

Hendrix said the program placed all the participants from its first cohort with an employer for an apprenticeship.

Smith added the program was designed to be reflective of the Philadelphia community and that opportunities within the program are offered for women and people of color to get involved.

“We’re working to improve outreach, with a focus on implementing diversity, equity and inclusion within our training programs, which is something that I think is going to benefit a lot of people,” Smith said. “When the workforce better represents the communities that our contractors work in, everyone is successful. It’s going to strengthen communities and the dynamic of the future construction workforce.”

Hendrix said another benefit of the program is that upon completion, students have built a network of carpentry professionals and have career opportunities on the horizon.

“For people who are going through the CARP program and a carpentry apprenticeship, there’s a ton of work in the city,” Hendrix said. “We’re not saying ‘Oh, we have a project in this neighborhood, we're going to employ a bunch of people and when the project's over, we're done.' People will continue to work and go to jobs all over the region. You have many opportunities if you're willing to work hard.”

Smith said contractors are excited to work with people who have already learned the fundamentals of the carpentry trades through the program. They have also requested the program be expanded into other communities. As of now, the program’s sixth Philadelphia cohort is set to start in January 2022.

“While the program is highly competitive, having a pre-apprenticeship program allows us to support workforce development opportunities for people in the community,” Smith said. “We’re not looking to go backwards, only collectively improving forward. We’re taking lessons learned from the first few cohorts and looking to branch out to other regions within our training territory."

This article was produced in collaboration between Eastern Atlantic States and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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