ComEd and partners graduate largest training class; expanding job opportunities in construction, engineering, solar power, and energy fields
On April 13, 2018 ComEd hosted a graduation ceremony for the largest graduating class of CONSTRUCT, a nine-week job training program aimed at getting more diverse candidates into local construction and energy jobs. Among the 2018 graduates were brothers, Dexter and Damier Allison, whose father graduated from the CONSTRUCT Program in 2014.
Dexter Allison is an African American journeyman electrician, who took an 11-week CONSTRUCT program in February 2014. Although he had been in the IBEW Local 134 since 1990, the construction industry like many other industries experienced an economic downturn after 9/11. So Allison began to pursue employment opportunities on his own instead of waiting on the union to contact him. His goal was to work “someplace like ComEd.”
He was fortunate to find out about the CONSTRUCT program from Patrick Colbert, program manager at the Chicago Urban League. CONSTRUCT, organized by ComEd in conjunction with 38 construction industry companies, two local utilities, and eight social service agencies, offers participants the information and guidance needed to compete for entry-level construction and project management jobs in construction and energy-related fields.
Since Allison was already a journeyman, his interests were in job-specific skills, increased employment opportunities and networking. He found it all through the program. When he graduated in May 2014, he landed a permanent position one month later at INTREN, LLC. He’s been there ever since.
INTREN is a company very similar to ComEd. “As a matter of fact, the company subcontracts from ComEd, said Allison. “I am part of a Smart Meter repair crew that works 4 days a week, 10 hours a day with Friday through Sunday off. I could not be happier.” His advice to anyone in the program. “Look at the various companies and see where you will best fit because it’s such a broad field,” said Dexter Allison.
Although his two sons were able to graduate from high school with good grades and attend college, the family was challenged financially in keeping them there. They both eventually returned to the city and began working.
When the senior Dexter Allison was contacted by the Chicago Urban League for an interview about the program, he asked about the CONSTRUCT program for his sons. Allison learned the program had been expanded to increase minority participation, it was now nine weeks and the curriculum had been divided into two tracks—the Construction and Skilled Trades track and the new Project Management and Planning track.
Since Dexter, Jr. had been pursuing a mechanical engineering degree and Damier had interests in a psychology degree, he suggested they consider the CONSTRUCT program’s Project Management and Planning track. He knew they could excel in the program and be able to financially support themselves. “I wanted them to have a plan “B” to realize their career goals,” said Dexter Allison.
The program is designed for individuals at any level in their education or career to start a plan “A” or pursue a plan “B.” For most people today the challenge is having the skills and getting your foot in the door. That’s something ComEd works to create for its students.
“We understand the importance of being a local employer and we are proud to offer a pathway to our industry for people of our communities,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd. “We applaud the 2018 graduates and look forward to their participation in the construction workforce of the future.”
Understanding the need to help knock down barriers to entry for construction-related fields, CONSTRUCT launched in May 2013 out of a partnership between ComEd, Intren and the labor unions. What began with ComEd, 10 companies and three social service agencies has grown to include Illinois’ other major utilities – Nicor Gas, Peoples’ Gas, 38 companies and eight social service agencies.
To complete the program, participants must attend at least 95 percent of the full-day classes and take the select, required tests. Upon completion of the program, participants can choose any number of career paths, from applying to work with the participating companies and satisfying any applicable union requirements, to applying to work with ComEd or employers in other sectors.
While completion of the program does not guarantee a job, individuals who complete the program successfully are trained to be qualified, knowledgeable, and ready to compete for construction jobs in Illinois.
Anyone interested in applying should contact the agencies directly. The agency contact numbers are: ASPIRA of Illinois, 773-252-0970; Austin Peoples Action Center, 773-378-8760; Chicago Urban League, 773-285-5800; National Latino Education Institute, 773-247-0707, ext. 223; Quad County Urban League, 630-851-2203, ext. 222; St. Sabina’s Employment Resource Center, 773-783-3760; SER Jobs for Progress, 773-542-9030; and the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, 773-955-3100.