Warren Students Get Lesson in Construction at Project Site

WARREN, Ohio – Warren G. Harding students on Thursday got a chance to see the inside of the major project being built just outside their classroom doors.

Over the buzz of the power tools, students heard DeSalvo Construction Superintendent Rob Wilt explain the $36 million Student Wellness and Recreation Center project, starting with the clearing of the parking lot and the surveying work to connect it to the existing building and Mollenkoff Stadium. 

Wilt explained the importance of the depth of the concrete footers that were poured to hold up the building, as well as the 860 tons of steel and large, tempered glass windows that will allow natural light into the facility. 

From the creation of a curtain wall that will hold the glass to electrical and plumbing work to outside siding and indoor finishing, there are many parts of the project going on simultaneously.

The project is slated to be completed next summer.

John Sofranko, business agent from the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, described the jobs of those working for contractors like DeSalvo Construction and how those students could be on the job as apprentices at a similar worksite after graduation. 

“We’re trying to explain to them that there’s careers out there for them and how to get that career,” Wilt said, noting he lets the carpenter business agent let them know about how much money they can make if they are hardworking and show the initiative to learn.

Between 50 and 60 skilled workers are simultaneously working each day at the site, which will eventually be a 136,000-square-foot facility. The students who are already taking shop or welding in high school might be able to see themselves in the men and women working at the site.

Wilt pointed out that women make some of the best carpentry employees.

“Men see what’s in front of them, but women, they look at things differently. Women see the big picture,” Wilt said. “Women make the best bosses in construction.”

Sofranko explained that through the Career Connections program, of which Warren G. Harding takes part, students learn some carpentry skills while still in school and can gain direct entry into the carpenters union after graduation, making them apprentices from Day One, earning about $18 per hour. The apprentices work three months with a contractor on a job site, which Sofranko finds for them, and then they attend a week of school, learning new skills they can use on the job. That cycle repeats for four years, with pay increases every six months.

“Myself, I’ve been in the carpenter union for 26 years,” Sofranko said. “When I was in shop growing up at Boardman High School, no one told me about a career in the trades. Everybody pushed you that you had to go to college to be successful – you’ve got to go to college to make a lot of money.”

However, Sofranko explained to the students that they can make a lot of money in good jobs with good benefits and get paid to attend the apprenticeship training program.

​​An average of 50 to 60 contractors per day work at the site of the future Student Wellness and Recreation Center at Warren G. Harding High School.

Their woodshop teacher, Josh Earl, explained he just paid off his college debt, a figure that raised a few eyebrows of the students’, and that Earl does not make as much money teaching as those working as a journeyman carpenter. Additionally, the carpenters earn benefits, such as health care and pensions.

One of the students asked how much work was available.

“When I was a superintendent in the field, if you showed up with a good attitude, showed up every day, showed up wanting to learn, make a difference, I would keep you along [on the project] a lot longer than someone who is calling off constantly, is not happy to be there and doesn’t want to learn anything,” Sofranko said.

Wilt said he has worked many years for the same company, DeSalvo Construction, and if they work hard as a carpenter, “the sky is the limit.”

“When you show value for the company that you’re working for, the last thing they want to do is lose you,” Wilt said. “And how do you show value – you show up, you work your hardest, you give a little, you never take, you give a little bit more than what you’re getting and, believe me, they will fight for you.”

According to the Central Ohio Association of Builders and Contractors, in 2024, the construction industry will need to bring in more than 342,000 new workers nationally on top of normal hiring to meet demand, even if construction spending growth slows significantly next year.

Pictured at top: Rob Wilt, DeSalvo Construction superintendent, third from right, speaks to Warren G. Harding students Thursday.

DeSalvo Construction Sponsors Constructing a Legacy Series
Watch how DeSalvo Construction and its subcontractors are assembling the $36 million Student Recreation and Wellness Center for Warren City Schools that will serve many generations to come.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.