Chima Okehie Credits Construction Ready with Preparing Him for the Career He Truly Desired
Chima Okehie has covered a lot of ground in his 42 years. Born in Chicago, he spent much of his childhood in his parents’ native Nigeria. He returned to the U.S. to attend Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, graduating in 1999, then moved again to Nigeria, where he worked as a truck driver hauling materials such as granite and limestone.
By 2012 Chima had gotten married and returned to the States for good, settling in Atlanta. He initially sold earthmoving equipment to contacts he had made in the Nigerian construction industry, but business dried up when the country’s economy began to slide into recession a few years later.
Here, in his own words, is Chima’s story of how he came to have a career in the American construction industry with the help of CEFGA’s Construction Ready training.
I made some mistakes. I was imprisoned for bank fraud. Upon my release I was looking for a way to get certified and get into construction as a profession. I really wanted to learn more about building.
A friend of mine, Lamel Diggs, introduced me to Construction Ready. (Read Lamel’s story here.) We were just having a conversation and I was telling him what I wanted to do, and he told me about this class that he had signed up for, and as a matter of fact, the next day was the last day to apply for it, and that’s when I said I’m making the move. I was very lucky that I got accepted into the program [in May 2018].
It was a wonderful experience. It was one of those experiences I never planned on having, but when I came into it, it really opened my eyes. I learned a lot about safety, about measurements, First Aid, all the basics. I regard it as the best thing that ever happened to me in my construction career.
I was hired by Mid South Roof Systems. I was really enjoying the job, but the pay wasn’t a lot because it was introductory level. While I was working there, after 90 days, I signed up for Construction Ready PLUS. All the class members are already in construction, so when we came to class, we brought our job experiences, we were able to learn from each other. I really learned a lot – that was where I really, really began to understand.
In my job, it was a situation where opportunity met preparation. A company we were doing a roofing job for in Alabama needed some people with experience working in heights and who had safety experience. They install steel beams on commercial buildings. And I ended up getting a job with that company, Span Construction, and that’s who I’m working with right now.
This is a field I have ended up loving. I like seeing things done – coming into a place that’s just open land and by the time we get done with it months later, there is a magnificent structure. A finished project gives me a feeling of satisfaction.
The people I work with, and the people I met through Construction Ready, have become like family. It has been a wonderful, positive journey. My wife and I have a newborn baby, and Lamel and his wife also have a newborn baby, and we all got together during the holidays.
I’m not bragging about this, but I know I’m an asset to my company. If a person has not gone through maybe a construction management school, Construction Ready really prepares a person to go out there and be an important asset for a company. A lot of people who got hired at the same time I got hired came in without even an OSHA 10. But through Construction Ready PLUS, I came with OSHA 30, Project Layout, Advanced Blueprint Reading. It has just been wonderful – it really prepared me for the job. And they pay me greater now.
Learn more about Construction Ready at constructionready.us.