CTA offers training, jobs on Red Line construction

June 4, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The agency is offering training for job applicants to see if they can do the work.

This is Melody Barnes' inaugural experience with a sledge hammer. Not easy, she concedes, but worth the education.

They learn how to dress the track, make sure the pandrol plates are where they're supposed to be, and the e-clips properly in place. It's Railroad 101, and these jobseekers would love to be part of it.

"If you're not movin' and shakin' and trying to do something, you're gonna collect dust- nothing's gonna happen. Nobody's going to see you sitting still," said Norman Womack, jobseeker.

Womack is a union laborer who's been laid off for the last year and a half. He's among some 2,600 people who applied through the Urban League for work on the CTA's Red Line reconstruction project. That list of applicants was shortened to 600, and just shy of 70 were hired to work the multimillion dollar rebuild. In addition, over 100 others have been invited for two days of railroad training conducted by the main contractor Kiewitt. Learn some skills for free, get a $180 gift card for doing the training, and maybe that unlocks other possibilities.

"We get to prepare people for future jobs that we have and they learn a skill they might not have that they can take and work for other contractors, even if they're not working for Kiewitt, so it's a win-win for everybody," said John Locke, Kiewitt.

While most of the people invited to training won't get jobs on the Red Line reconstruction project, significantly, they remain in a workforce pool, on call.

That data base of job seekers- most of who have past union affiliation- will be in the Urban League data bank.

"Companies and corporations can no longer say we don't know where to find African American workers. One call to the Urban League and you'll find plenty," said Steve Mayberry, CTA.

"Just to get on the job and keep workin', like no layoffs, just keep workin', contract after contract," said Barnes.

That's the wish: to have a shot at a good paying job, even if the sledgehammer is a bit taxing.

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