Construction Ready Helped Jahmal Johnson Discover a Passion for Roofing
Story and photos by Allen Allnoch
Jahmal Johnson knows a good thing when he sees it. When he learned about CEFGA’s Construction Ready program, he said, “Sign me up.” There was one problem, though: He lived in Gwinnett County and CEFGA had yet to launch a Construction Ready partnership there.
So he moved, all the way to south Atlanta. Jahmal applied and was accepted into Construction Ready at Aerotropolis, designed to serve residents in the area around Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He graduated in October 2016 and went to work immediately for Forest Park-based Mid-South Roof Systems.
“I wanted this training so bad,” Jahmal says. “It offered eight credentials and it was free. I thought, ‘Man, that’s perfect,’ because I love using my hands. I was motivated and grateful for the chance. I was trying to find something I could turn into a career and not just a job.”
It seems Jahmal has been moving southward most of his life. Born in New York City, he was raised by a grandmother in New Jersey before relocating to Virginia, “to follow a woman,” he says with a laugh. He followed her again to Atlanta, but the relationship didn’t work out. Nor did a succession of jobs that included stripping and waxing floors, building office cubicles, and working for an uncle’s furniture business.
He wasn’t finding satisfaction in his work, and he was starting to worry about the future, both for himself and his four children, all of whom now live in Virginia.
“I was discouraged, dealing with the everyday stress of life, trying to make ends meet, helping my children and their mother out,” Jahmal says. “I was tired of struggling. I wanted to be able to take care of myself and prepare a future for my children. Construction Ready gave me the opportunity to earn a lot more money, to be able to save – I never had a 401k plan before – to obtain medical coverage. Now I have a career, not just a job. And I feel important, like I’m worth something.”
Jahmal discovered that feeling of worth from day one at Construction Ready, where he was touched by the attention he received from CEFGA staff and partners.
“[Instructor] Johnny Hughes, Miss Jessie [Sadlowsky, assistant placement director] … everyone there made me feel loved, they made me feel welcome,” he says. “I came in my first day feeling like a total stranger; by the end of that day, I felt like I was part of the family. That was a new experience for me. It showed me that they weren’t there just to get through the day, but that they really cared about us. I come from a broken home and I didn’t have much of a family, so that really meant a lot to me. … It changed my life tremendously. Words can’t even explain it.”
Now, with Mid-South, Jahmal is on top of the world – or at least on top of a roof every day, which is where, it turns out, he’s happiest.
The company delivers large-scale flat roofing solutions for commercial applications such as big box retail, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities nationwide. Jahmal has worked on installations from metro Atlanta to as far south as Savannah and Albany. He says he’s always eager for the next assignment, regardless of where it takes him.
“I had never done sheet metal or roofing, but I loved it right away because it was new and it was challenging,” he says. “I’ve always been the type that if I’m not happy with what I’m doing, then I need to look for something else. With this job, I wake up ready to go. Even if I’m tired and haven’t gotten enough rest, I’m still ready. I love it.”
Through Construction Ready, Jahmal found his sweet spot, the thing he was seemingly made to do. And in today’s thriving economy, the industry needed him. The jobs are there for the taking and CEFGA is leading the way in connecting people to them. In other words, Jahmal’s story is a great illustration of CEFGA’s tagline: “Building opportunities for Georgia.”