Graduates of CEFGA’s Construction Ready Have the Opportunity to Build on Their Training through this New Advanced Program Funded by the Home Depot Foundation

By Allen Allnoch, CEFGA Writer and Photographer

Since its inception in June 2014, CEFGA’s Construction Ready program has trained and placed more than 800 students into full-time employment in the construction industry.

Now, with the introduction of Construction Ready PLUS, those graduates have an opportunity to further their education and advance their careers.

Made possible by a grant from the Home Depot Foundation, Construction Ready PLUS is a 16-week curriculum, taught on Saturdays, that gives students the opportunity to earn six credentials – OSHA 30-Hour, Advanced Blue Print Reading, Advanced Construction Layout, Crew Leadership, Career Pathway, Advanced Financial Literacy – along with instruction in an Advanced Tools course.

“We are excited to be partnering with The Home Depot Foundation to offer Construction Ready PLUS,” said CEFGA President and CEO Scott Shelar. “This new program gives Construction Ready graduates an opportunity to grow their skills and their knowledge of the construction industry. Construction Ready helps metro Atlanta residents get their foot in the door. This program, Construction Ready PLUS, gives them the tools, the knowledge and the skills they need to take their construction career to a higher level.”

Worthwhile Time Investment
The curriculum combines classroom instruction at CEFGA’s Westside Works headquarters with hands-on applications at an off-site location. In fall of 2018, the inaugural Construction Ready PLUS class spent five Saturdays at the Salvation Army Bellwood Boys and Girls Club, where they built a fence enclosure for a dumpster and a lattice covering for a picnic area.

Construction Ready graduates must be employed full-time for at least 90 days to qualify for Construction Ready PLUS. For Miketa Grant, who works for drywall and ceiling specialist Marek, committing her Saturdays to the program was time well spent.

“You’re never too old to learn something, so when they came out with Construction Ready Plus, to give me more credentials and advance my learning, I jumped right on it,” said Grant, a 2016 graduate of Construction Ready at Westside Works. “It’s worthwhile, because it’s not like I’m wasting my Saturdays – I’m actually doing something that’s going to help me later on in life. I might not see [the results] today or in the next couple of months, I but I promise, I will see it.”

Likewise, Albert Wooten didn’t view his time at Construction Ready PLUS as a sacrifice. “With the credentials they are offering, you can’t beat it,” said Wooten, a graduate of Construction Ready at Aerotropolis. “A lot of times, you’re at home on Saturdays not doing anything. So why not use that time wisely and constructively?

“I’ve learned a lot,” Wooten added. “I’ve advanced my skills. Even the classroom work – I recently took a test with Georgia Power to be an apprentice lineman, and I sort of went through that test with ease, because of the training I’ve received in this program.”

Like its Construction Ready counterpart, Construction Ready PLUS is taught by a team from HB Next, CEFGA’s instruction partner in the program. Kelly Almond and two HB Next assistants led the instruction in Class 1.

“Our main goal is to help these Construction Ready graduates improve their skills in the trades they are working in,” Almond said. “I think the fact that they are giving up their Saturdays to improve themselves speaks volumes.”

With the hands-on projects, students have plenty of opportunity to apply their skills, work as a team and develop leadership abilities, all under the watchful eye of Almond and his team.

Watching a student hammer a wedge to open a gap between a pair of boards, Almond shouted, “Hey, hey, easy there, sunshine!” A retired Marine, Almond balances a tough-love approach with a healthy dose of good-natured prodding, cajoling and joking. He’s also a gifted teacher who draws on years of experience to pass along lessons not always found in a textbook or classroom.

Almond contrasted the four-week, boot camp-style regimen of Construction Ready with a more relaxed atmosphere that characterizes Construction Ready PLUS.

“These [Construction Ready PLUS students] are already working in the field,” he said. “They know what’s that like, they know the fast pace, they know the demands of their trades. So it’s more relaxed here. I kind of joke with them, and at times I kind of ride them a little bit, too.”

Hands-On Operations Plus Lessons in Leadership
The lessons taught in Construction Ready PLUS are more in-depth and nuanced than those of its prerequisite.

Almond explained: “I try to instill in them that if they want to advance in their career fields, it’s a mindset as much as it is knowledge – getting their minds trained to go from labor to some type of supervisory position is huge. So I stress to them doing things the right way and being able to lead by example. Because if you don’t know your own job, then you can’t expect to be able to lead people and follow behind them and make sure they did the job right. And taking pride in what they do, that’s crucial, and it’s something they can’t find in a textbook.”

Another leadership lesson is helping students learn how best to relate to those who will follow them. Here, Almond’s own style provides a clear example.

“As up-and-coming leaders, they have to find the leadership style that works for them,” Almond said. “The two different styles that I try to make them aware of is you have leaders who are more authoritative and you have leaders who are more persuasive, and rarely does it work to have one or the other. I’ve told them they have to find the mix that works for them – they’ve got to be able to be hard-nosed, but at the same time, they have to be the type of leader that people want to follow.”

From the classroom lessons to the on-hands work to leadership and other intangibles, Westside Works graduate Tyron Christopher eagerly took it all in as part of Construction PLUS Class 1. Back in the spring of 2017, Christopher had been initially hesitant to apply for Construction Ready. But once he graduated and landed a job he loves (with Newnan-based High Tech Rail & Fence), he was all-in for taking his skills to the next level.

“The kicker for me was the OSHA 30 [certification],” Christopher said. “Companies only select certain people for OSHA training, so for you to walk in the door with it, to already have it, that’s a big plus. When I saw Construction Ready Plus, I was psyched. I said, ‘Whatever I have to do, I’m going to make time to do it.’ The excitement that I got from [Construction Ready], seeing that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be – all you have to do is apply yourself – I said, ‘I can do this [Construction Ready PLUS].’ And if they have something else coming, I’ll sign up for that, too.”

CEFGA Supporters