Devan Brown Overcame a Series of Setbacks to Prosper in His Work in Utility Contracting
CEFGA’s Construction Ready training has helped change hundreds of lives for the better. The rate and degree of transformation, however, varies depending on the graduate’s circumstances, the employer-employee relationship, and countless other factors.
For Devan Brown, who first connected with Construction Ready in 2015 and ultimately completed the program in 2019, the journey has been full of obstacles. But he has overcome each one and today is flourishing in his job with Acworth-based MVP Piping.
Born in Selma, Alabama, Devan moved to metro Atlanta with his family when he was 15 months old. After graduating from Harrison High in Cobb County, he worked a variety of jobs ranging from fast food to warehousing to whatever he could get via temp agencies.
“I was just all over the place,” he recalls. “At my last job I was only making about 60 or 70 dollars a day and I told myself, ‘Once I find my niche, I’m not coming back to this.’”
Devan learned about Construction Ready from a friend of his mother who knew about the program, which recently had been introduced to Cobb County in 2015. He applied and was accepted, but at the onboarding session, he became anxious when he learned there would be a drug test,
“I was hanging around the wrong people, just not being smart, and I had smoked some [marijuana],” he says. “I didn’t want to take the chance [on being kicked out], so I just walked out.”
Over the next two years, Devan says, “I kind of got my head back on straight, and I got serious and got a job at Wendy’s, and actually got promoted to a shift supervisor.” Then, again discouraged by low wages, he decided to give Construction Ready another try.
“I said, ‘I need to get myself back in the program,’” he says. “I went back and passed all the entry requirements, and from that point on I just kind of said there was no looking back. The only direction I could look was forward.”
Devan graduated from Construction Ready at Build Cobb in March 2019 and was hired by a roofing company. His family celebrated with him – “My dad was ecstatic; it was like I had just graduated with honors,” he remembers – and his parents continued to be a strong support system as he moved forward.
The next obstacle appeared almost immediately. Soon after Devan began his new job, the company’s HR department called him in and said he wasn’t performing up to standards. He had accepted the job with prior experience in residential roofing, but the work was commercial roofing on high-rise buildings. He ended up being let go and went home discouraged.
“I was afraid to tell my parents, but it wasn’t like I got fired for not coming to work or not doing my job,” he recalls. “My mom said, ‘Don’t let it discourage you, just keep going, keep pushing. You have all these credentials that companies are looking for and that a lot of people don’t have.’”
Devan says he spent the next week on his computer, looking for jobs and sending out resumes. But nothing materialized and he grew increasingly discouraged. Rather than give up, however, he attacked the problem with renewed resolve.
“I said, ‘I can’t sit in the house anymore, because it’s making me lazy,” he says. “I’m waking up later than normal. I need to get up, I need to move, I need to go make something happen.’ So I put on my jeans, put on my work boots, put on my vest, I grabbed my hard hat and I just drove around, and anytime I saw a construction site, I stopped and asked if they were hiring.”
Putting gas in his car at a Racetrac convenience store one day, Devan noticed skilled laborers at work on the property. He approached one and inquired about employment, and it turned out they were hiring. Within days he was employed by the company, F.S. Scarborough, a Fayetteville-based utility contractor.
Devan spent most of the next year on projects around metro Atlanta, including one at his alma mater, Harrison High. He left the company just before Christmas of 2019 and, through a Facebook connection, landed a job with MVP Piping.
At MVP, Devan says he’s found himself entrusted with increasingly more responsibility, such as overseeing safety procedures, and coordinating communications and materials between his supervisors and on-site foremen. He loves the work and the financial stability it’s brought him.
“I went from staying in my parents’ basement at the age of 33 to now I have my own apartment and my own car,” Devan says. “I can buy gifts for my parents. I had never been able to buy Christmas gifts that I wanted to give. I was able to buy my niece and nephews certain things. If my mom needs some money, I’m able to give her a few dollars. If she says, ‘I left my debit card at home, can you cash-app me 20 dollars?’ I can do it. Normally I was the one who was asking her to cash-app me money. It just really feels good to be able to do something for my family.
“I had some ups and downs and bumps in the road, but at the end of the day, I had to just keep moving forward. I didn’t want to go back to the pattern of hanging out late at night, smoking with my friends. I’m at an age where I’m past that and there are bigger things out there for me.”
Learn more about Construction Ready at constructionready.org.