'Construct' gives graduates a foot in the construction door

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The free training program from ComEd is aimed at helping more minorities find opportunities in the construction industry. (WLS)

Construct, a free job training program started by ComEd, works to help minorities find opportunities in the construction industry.

"There are a lot of obstacles for us minorities to get into the construction industry and this opportunity here just knocks those down," said Vincent Hernandez, a Construct graduate.

The program began when ComEd was ready to commence building its new smart grid.

"As ComEd started all of the smart grid work, we found ourselves working in the communities, our contractors working in the communities and we recognized that the workforce didn't necessarily reflect the communities in which we were doing this work," said Fidel Marquez, senior vice president of ComEd. "And as we were looking into this, we saw that the pipeline for women and minorities was not there. "

Nineteen utility construction companies have signed on to help train and hire entry-level workers. The curriculum focuses on the practical skills and tools new construction workers will need in entry level positions and beyond.

"We developed a curriculum with say math skills, communication skills, job skills with tools, CDL driving, safety," said Matthew Turk, executive vice president of INTREN, one of the utility construction companies that are part of Construct. "We exposed them to that during the classroom and job shadowing so now when they go in as a candidate, they're better prepared."

There are also four non-profits participating in the program. The non-profits recruit candidates and provide supportive services.

"We partnered with ComEd as the lead partner on this to give women the opportunities to access those jobs," said Dori McWhorter, CEO of YWCA metropolitan Chicago.

Pay for entry level jobs in utility construction typically fall between $30 to $40 an hour. For more information on Construct, visit the program's website.
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