Speak to Howard Towns for just a few minutes and one thing quickly becomes apparent: He’s a stand-up kind of guy.
No doubt that’s why he was so troubled to be out of work, and why he’s so satisfied to be working again, thanks to the construction training he received at Westside Works.
“It was a blessing and a new beginning,” says the Atlanta native. “I was able to get credentials, get a job, and be able to provide for my wife and for myself, so it was like a new start in life. That’s what a man is supposed to do, to be able to provide for his family.”
Towns speaks fondly of Mildred, his wife of 12 years. They commute together every morning, with her dropping him off at a YMCA in Dunwoody, where he works out before reporting to work for Holder Construction. Since graduating with Westside Works’ Construction Group No. 5 in February 2015, Towns has been assigned to a sprawling construction site that will be the home of a major insurance company.
Though Towns had some construction experience, it had been many years ago. Since graduating from Westside Works, his education has continued on the job – he’s learned how to operate some heavy machinery, attended classes in traffic management, learned to pour concrete and more.
Jon Lewis, Holder’s superintendent on the site, lauds Towns’s work ethic. “Howard really benefits the project with his hard work,” Lewis says. “He lifts, carries and moves materials on a regular basis. He also provides support to deliveries by being a flagman who keeps traffic flowing around the job site. He just does whatever is asked of him.”
Towns is quick to credit Westside Works instructor Johnny Hughes for instilling that air of professionalism in him and his fellow classmates.
“Westside Works, and Johnny Hughes in particular, does a great job of helping you be prepared and be successful,” Towns says. “He teaches you to be prompt and on time, and to go and do the job without complaining. One thing he said really stood out: ‘If they tell you to dig a hole, then dig a hole. If they tell you to put dirt back in the hole, then put dirt back in the hole. Learn to follow the rules and the instructions and you’ll do well.”
A number of elements distinguish Westside Works from other skills training programs, but Towns and fellow graduates tend to cite one thing in particular when discussing their job readiness: the national and industry-recognized credentials they gain. They leave the program with up to eight, including the National Center for Construction Education (NCCER) Core, OSHA10-Hour Certification and CPR/First Aid Certification.
Asked what he would tell a prospective Westside Works student today, Towns says, “It’s the best opportunity you’ll ever have. No matter what you know, if you don’t have those credentials, then go through Westside Works, get a job and make the best of the opportunity. Buy you a home and provide for your family. You’ll be prepared to live your dream.”