Construction Ready Gave New Life to a Sputtering Career for Andrea Searles

When someone graduates from Construction Ready, CEFGA pronounces them “Trained, Credentialed, Ready to Work.” All three of those points are important, but it’s the credentials that tend to grab the attention of both prospective students and employers.

“Construction wasn’t new to me, but being able to get all the credentials that Construction Ready offered was a big draw,” says Andrea Searles, one of more than 1,000 graduates of the program since its debut in 2014.

Andrea had prior experience in the field, including jobs in cost estimating and CDL transportation, but her work in recent years “seemed like a dead end,” she says. While living in Smyrna, she learned about Construction Ready at Build Cobb.

“I had seen the fliers for Construction Ready a few times,” she remembers. “I said, ‘Well, maybe this is a way for me to get more credentials.’ I just had to sit down and put my mind to spending 20 days [in the program].”

Newly armed with credentials in NCCER Core, OSHA 10 and more, Andrea graduated from Construction Ready in September 2018 and landed a position with Marietta-based Baldwin Paving. She drove a water truck for three months, but because that job is weather-dependent and work hours aren’t always available, she began looking for other opportunities.

In January 2019 Andrea began a new job as an inspector with Benchmark Management, an engineering, construction management and program management services firm specializing in municipal water, wastewater and stormwater projects.

Her valuable credentials again helped in landing the job, and she went on to earn even more by attending CEFGA’s Construction Ready PLUS program, which she completed in April 2019.

With Benchmark, Andrea goes “from job site to job site, sometimes with three or four different projects at a time,” she says. “The best thing is being able to learn about the different aspects of construction. I have to know all the details, all the specs, the different types of materials – all the little things that could be missed, that make or break a project.”

Andrea has seen her classroom lessons come to life on job sites. In the area of safety for example, she’s learned to keep her eyes open for potential hazards.

“I noticed that some people really take for granted the safety aspect sometimes,” she says. “I realized, ‘Wow, this is just what they trained us to know in class.’”

That lesson hit home even more when she observed an accident on a job site one day. As she tells it: “An employee was sitting too close to a trench that was being cut. At the end of the day, they put a steel plate on top until they come back the next day, so people can ride over it on the street. The cable broke and that plate fell on the guy’s hand, and they couldn’t get it off for about 15 minutes. I won’t forget that.”

She continues: “When you pass other people’s job sites, you start to notice things, like people walking on the edge of a two-story building with no harness on. Those are things they teach us that, if you were just hired by a construction company [without training such as Construction Ready], you might end up getting hurt.”

Considering the lessons she’s learned and the credentials she’s gained – not to mention a consequent boost in pay – Andrea says her time in Construction Ready and Construction Ready PLUS have proven a worthwhile investment.

“I had tried everything my way,” she says. “I figured if I tried things somebody else’s way, [with people who were] closer to the industry than I was at the time, that it would work for me. And it has worked for me.”

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