Louis lives with his teenaged son in south San Jose. He has been working in construction for over 20 years, but when the Great Recession hit, he was laid off and struggled to make ends meet. He had some trouble, and went to jail for three years.
When he got out, he found it difficult to find a job because of his record. He decided to apply to the Trades Orientation Program to help him get back into construction.
Work in construction isn’t just about how well one guy can do the job — it’s about the people you work with, about communicating with each other and being able to work as a team to get the job done.
Even with his decades of experience, the coursework had some surprises for Louis. He loved “getting his hands dirty” during field trips to the Sheet Metal Workers and the Electricians. But he didn’t expect that the class would include workplace communications, conflict resolution, and team-building exercises.
He says it helped him realize that “work in construction isn’t just about how well one guy can do the job—it’s about the people you work with, about communicating with each other and being able to work as a team to get the job done.”
When he graduated, Louis entered the Carpenters pre-apprenticeship program. After finishing the Carpenters training, he was assigned to a jobsite in San Rafael doing interior carpentry.
He loves the work and also loves that the early start means his workday ends at 3 pm, so he can spend the rest of the day with his son.
He is excited about the benefits he has through the Carpenters union—he has health insurance and a pension, but most of all, he has stability, constant learning opportunities, and a clear pathway to advancement. His apprenticeship will be completed in 4 years, and then he will move into a journeyman position. From there, he is determined to take advantage of all the opportunities offered to him through the Carpenters to be able to move eventually into management.
Louis feels the more he knows, the more options he has, and the more secure his career in the future. “Everything in construction is moving to new technology,” he reflects, “and I know I need to keep up with computer and other technology skills if I’m going to meet my career goals.”
Before TOP, Louis says, “I took jobs I had to in order to make ends meet…just moving from site to site, without any opportunity to gain skills for a higher position.” He is thrilled he was able to participate in a program that will lead him to opportunities to achieve his goals.