Trades Expo Offers Career Options for Adult Job Seekers

CANFIELD, Ohio — After two years in the veterinary science program at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, Jaclyn Craver decided that college wasn’t for her. 

One of the newest graduates from Mineral Ridge High School, she was intrigued by possibly becoming a welder or electrician as so many jobs are encompassed in those two trades. Her love of mathematics fueled her passion as well.

“I always thought that would be perfect for me, just wiring up houses,” she said. 

Craver was encouraged by friends to come to the Mahoning Valley Skilled Trades Expo, where exhibitors representing the full swath of the trades showed how people could start a new line of work without being burdened by college debt.

“I’m looking to get into a really decent apprenticeship, and hopefully after the apprenticeship start my own business,” Craver said. 

Kevin Reilly, executive vice president of The Builders Association, said the goal of this event was to inform those visiting – a morning session welcomed high school students from Mahoning, Trumbull and Portage counties, while the evening session catered to adult job-seekers and parents with children in high school – about all the different types of trades and what kind of work they do.

Bricklayers, cement finishers, roofers, laborers, carpenters, tile setters, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, iron workers, heavy equipment or operating engineers were at the expo. All the displays had chances for hands-on experiences.

“We want to try to educate them about the different trades and the opportunities that the different trades offer because there’s good opportunities in all the trades to make good wages and good benefits,” Reilly said. 

Skilled Trades Expo evening session

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Jaclyn Carver works with bricklayers Ljudodrag Andjelkovich; Brian Collier, field representative at Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District Council of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; Steve Antal, project manager for Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo; Robert Phillips, superintendent for the A.P. O’Horo Co. and a member of Carpenters and Joiners Union Local 171; and Kevin Reilly, vice president of The Builders Association.

Before exploring those options, Craver came across a display for bricklayers. She was with bricklayer Ljubodrag Andjelkovich, slapping mortar mix with a trowel to some bricks and fusing them together — impressed by what she accomplished.

“It’s pretty extensive of what you have to do with laying the brick and making sure it’s all the right way, all level and straight,” Craver said.

Since she bypassed college, Craver found that most employers were requiring some sort of higher education degree.

“That’s why I looked at trades, because they’ll train you,” she said. “I know a bunch of people that are in the trades. It’s so easy for you to work up into different management positions, to have your own company or create another union or something.”

Brian Collier, field representative at Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District Council of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, said those looking to get into this line of work will have annuities and health insurance in addition to their pay which starts at $16 an hour. The apprenticeship is four years long and has eight pay grades, topping out over $30. Benefits are taxed prepaid. 

Those in the business can move on to be a foreman, superintendent, business agent or field superintendent like Collier. 

His parents grew up in the Great Depression, saving for him to go to college. Collier declined the offer and learned his trade without spending money.

“My fellow workers – through assessments that pay for our training program; 20 cents an hour – paid for me to be a bricklayer,” Collier said.

Dependable people are needed to work in these trades. 

“I don’t want to give anybody a cheap sales routing to get them to join my trade,” he said. “I love stacking up rocks. I’ll tell them, ‘Look, here’s some other trades to consider.’ I don’t want you to be disappointed in two years because we’re going to make an investment in these people.”

Steve Antal, project manager for Youngstown Tile and Terrazzo, said his company does jobs from small bathrooms to hanging grand slabs inside of buildings. What kind of people are needed for these jobs?

“We always, obviously, like hard workers, good character people,” he said. “You have to be somewhat physically fit, able to lift things and move around. … If you have the right attitude and you want to work, we can teach you.”

Robert Phillips, superintendent for the A.P. O’Horo Co. and a member of Carpenters and Joiners Union Local 171, said this business constructs infrastructures such as water and wastewater plants, roads and bridges, building projects and site development jobs.

“We have females, males, anybody who can do it,” Phillips said. “As long as you can show up to work, physically do it, read a tape measure and use a hammer, you can pretty much do it.” 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.