Gene Gaines is a man on the move. Since graduating with Westside Works’ Construction Group No. 2 in August 2014, he’s been employed with Holder Construction Company at a job site on Atlanta’s northern perimeter. He’s relocated from the city’s west side to Sandy Springs and he’s got a spring in his step from the new life Westside Works has afforded him.
“There’s not a day that I take for granted,” says the 35-year-old Gaines. “I love getting up and going to work. I leap up out of the bed every day.”
Gaines had been out of a job when he heard about Westside Works. The program was just launching in summer of 2014, and like many in the community, Gaines had his doubts. But he also saw an opportunity and decided to take a chance. He even turned down two job offers while going through the training curriculum.
Four weeks later he held seven construction-industry certifications and was fighting back tears as he stood up at the graduation ceremony and opened a letter with a job offer from Holder.
“It takes discipline to say, ‘I’m not going to think about money and I’m not going to think about the outside world for four weeks,’” Gaines recalls. “To say, ‘I’m going to put all of myself into a program that’s like a full-time job.’ To go through that in four weeks and meet the people we met and obtain the knowledge and credentials, it’s unprecedented. Westside Works really put the right formula together.”
Gaines works a security gate at the Dunwoody job site, an expansive office complex that will house an insurance company. Since starting the job, he has continued to better himself, adding four more credentials to the ones he already earned through Westside Works.
“I remember we had an issue one time about staying late,” he recalls. “Someone said, ‘Gene, you can’t stay late, you don’t have first aid or CPR,’ and I was whipping out my certifications and saying, ‘Yes I do. I can get this overtime.’”
Jon Lewis, Holder’s superintendent at the Dunwoody site, says Gaines’ effusive personality complements his skills and credentials.
“Gene does a great job building relationships.” Lewis says. “He provides a positive attitude at the front gate. He always welcomes and says goodbye to the workers on site.”
Years ago, Gaines worked as a pool cleaner among these same northern suburbs, and he longed to one day live here. Now he’s living his dream – “I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” he says – and as he looks to the future, he’s employing the soft skills, such as budgeting and saving, that Westside Works taught him in addition to the construction training.
“When you’re doing your financial planning, the first thing is to pay yourself, and I have been paying myself well,” he says. “Now I’m able to set some short-term goals and some long-term goals.”
Wherever Gaines goes from here, he’s sure to do it with passion and purpose. As he’s already demonstrated, he possesses an abundance of both.