By Allen Allnoch
Lloyd Foster wears a microphone on one shoulder. An iPhone is clipped to the other. A walkie-talkie hangs from a pants pocket. In his new job in security on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium site, Foster certainly is well connected.
Thanks to Westside Works’ construction training and certification program, Foster is connected in a broader sense as well. After graduating with Westside Works’ first class in July 2014, he was hired immediately for a Gatekeeper position, and he’s excited about the potential for career growth.
“I wanted something where I could make a decent starting wage and progress into a higher-paying job,” says Foster, 49. “The construction industry provided that. You can get in, and it’s up to you how fast you move up.”
“He’s eager to learn, that’s for sure,” says Danny McCall, safety director for Holder, Hunt, Russell, Moody (HHRM, the joint venture in charge of the stadium’s construction). “He came in, he knew what he had to do and he’s doing it. He’s very professional.”
That’s welcome news for Jamie Buck, Director of Training & Placement for the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA), which oversees training at Westside Works. “We want to make sure our students represent the industry well and are successful out there,” Buck says.
Foster was a tattoo artist prior to entering the Westside Works program. The increased pay, coupled with better job stability, has enabled him to begin making some long-hoped-for improvements on his English Avenue home. The new role also affords him more time with his wife and children, ages 6, 8, 10 and 12.
“I like the job because there’s less stress,” Foster says. “With my old job, I had to do marketing and other things. Here, I just have to be here on time, do what I’m supposed to do, and once I take my hat off, I can go home and there’s no stress.”
Foster came to Westside Works through Integrity Transformations Community Development Corporation (Integrity CDC), which recruits prospective students and serves as a liaison between Westside Works and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Thanks to the grassroots connections and networking of Integrity CDC and its executive director, Rev. Howard Beckham, local residents like Foster are learning about career opportunities that are bursting with potential.
Foster had been in the tattoo business for more than 15 years. He doesn’t speak negatively of it, but it’s clear he’s happy with his new career. After countless days hunched over bare skin with a needle in hand, he now works outdoors in a fast-paced security role that has embraced.
“I didn’t envision being here,” he says, “but once I found out about Westside Works, I was really happy I stepped forward and was accepted as part of that first class. I really like the program.”