Our Austin Training Program is transforming at-risk Austinites to be employed construction specialists in just eight weeks, using a mix of grant dollars, teamwork with local union contractors, and intensive training. This program is made possible by a Self-Sufficiency Fund grant from the Texas Workforce Commission to the Gulf Coast Carpenter & Millwright Training Trust Fund – the parent organization for the Austin Carpenters Training Program. Participants qualify if they are a parent and/or are on - or on the verge of being on - TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or other government assistance program.
The grant stipulates that the Carpenters Union must train 50 at-risk citizens as trained, tested, and skilled carpenters by April 2022. Training focuses on supplying more workers for Austin’s booming interior systems sector, which needs skilled carpenters for metal stud framing, hanging drywall, ceilings, etc. The eight weeks of intense training is equal to two years of regular Interior Systems apprenticeship training by the Union. For their final exam, the group traveled to a jobsite and completed layout, framing, insulation, drywall hanging, ceiling grid hanging and drop tile assignments. Of the 12 students who started the program’s first of four cohorts, three were hired by Performance Contracting, Inc. within four weeks of training. The remaining 9 graduated recently and immediately became full-time employees and members of the Central South Carpenters’ Austin Local Union 1266.
“These new carpenters have what it takes to become our future leaders,” said Bobby Vasquez, coordinator of the Austin Training Program. “It speaks volumes about their character to work so hard with only the hope, not a guarantee, of being hired at the end of the session. We are all very proud of their dedication.”
The course’s valedictorian, Robert McKinnis, is a prime example of the program’s early success. He shared with the graduation audience that he was released from prison in October of 2020 and never thought he would turn his life around. He struggled to hide his emotions when he received his graduation certificate and a set of new hand tools that Milwaukee Tools gave to all graduates of the program. The newest interior systems carpenters in Austin and their employers are:
Alana Crumrine – Performance Contracting, Inc.
Miriam “Sam” Cruz – Midwest Drywall Company, Inc.
Marcus Maldonado – Craftcorps
Anthony Eachus – Performance Contracting, Inc.
Robert McKinnis – Performance Contracting, Inc.
Alejandro Dominguez - Midwest Drywall Company, Inc.
Russell McDowell – Siteline Interior Carpentry, Inc.
Andres Gomez – Siteline Interior Carpentry, Inc.
Elliot Hardy – Siteline Interior Carpentry, Inc.
The instruction and guidance team consisted of Austin carpenter instructors Justin Adair, Michelle Lindenmier, lead instructor Eian Kennedy, Coordinator Bobby Vasquez, and Local 1266 Representative Sean Forkner.
Matching Skill with Career Potential: To properly match the students with their employer, Vasquez and his staff held a speed dating-style 5-minute interview process between local contractors and the students. Employers were given a file on each student, listing their certifications and an instructor assessment. Employers ranked their choices and program administrators dispatched the students evenly and accordingly.
Graduation and Draft Day: At the graduation ceremony, each student was called to the stage to receive their stack of certificates and to learn who their employer is.
Next Steps: The next group of Austinites will begin their 8-week course soon. This group that graduated will also continue to train as apprentices at the Austin Training Center to work toward becoming journeymen after completing all required training and testing.
Check out a full photo album of the graduation event, here.