By Shirley Hawkins
LOS ANGELES — Tyrone Wiggins had dreams of working in the construction trade, but he felt his math skills were too poor to pass the union trade entry exams.
Married with two children, Wiggins was making a living working odd jobs when he heard about the Los Angeles Urban League’s Construction Career Academy, where applicants receive education and training in the utility, civil servant, construction and mechanics sector.
With the help and encouragement of instructors, Wiggins’ math skills improved. He eventually took 11 union trade exams and passed seven of them. Although COVID placed a temporary hold on the hiring process, hiring once again picked up months later, and job offers for Wiggins started pouring in.
With several job offers to choose from, Wiggins accepted an offer from the Southern California Gas Company. “They were the first company to respond to my application,” he said.
Construction projects are currently booming in Los Angeles County, but contractors cannot find enough workers to meet the demand.
To help fill the need, the Construction Career Academy offers an apprenticeship readiness program that prepares candidates to take and pass union trade entry exams. The program, which lasts 10 weeks, teaches students interview techniques, construction math and workplace retention skills. The program provides 80 hours of instruction.
“Our program is geared towards getting people into the mechanical trades and there are about 38 trade options,” said Amare El Jamii, co-founder and instructor of the Construction Career Academy. “We are currently going through the recruitment process right now.
Jamii said that some classes are taught via Zoom while some students get hands-on instruction at the academy’s worksite at the H and M Community Garden in Compton.
Jamaii said the cademy is currently seeking applicants.
“We have an open enrollment process with our first orientation. Enrollment starts on Oct. 1,” he said
Jamii said that construction projects throughout Los Angeles County continue to expand.
“Locally there’s an explosion in large-scale projects and growth in Los Angeles County and this is a great time to start a career in construction,” he said.
“The Construction Career Academy offers a unique opportunity to start a career building the skyscrapers, stadiums and public works projects that are the future of Los Angeles — with great earning potential and union benefits — if you’re willing to put in the work,” he added. “We had students working on the Crenshaw line as well as the Rams stadium and the Clippers [arena].”
Jamii said that the academy has a rolling enrollment policy.
“We bring in new students on the first Saturday of each month,” he said. “To be accepted into the program, you have to fill out the application and have an interview with one of our staff members and we will place you in the class at the appropriate time. After they complete the class, we offer job placement,”
Jamii added that ex-felons are also encouraged to apply.
Roughly 2,000 students have graduated from the program since its inception.
He added that some of the unions call him weekly seeking Construction Career Academy graduates.
“They call us and ask us who is in the hiring queue that they can put to work,” he said.
Jamii added that a willing attitude is an integral part of completing the course.
“The applicant must bring [his or her] mind, body and soul to the Academy,” he said. “They must show up with a willingness to finish the class. We are looking for them to bring 100% commitment to the table for the next three to six months to get them into the career of their choice.”
For more information about the Academy, access them online at jtmacademy.org or call 562-234-2735.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.