In less than a year after graduating from Phoenix Job Corps, Isidro Tapia, 24, is enjoying success as a Concrete Finisher.
“I got a whole new resume and I got to put myself out there,” says Tapia, who’s making $20 an hour at Sun Tech Concrete. He’s up for a raise that could increase his pay to $22 an hour.
His first job after graduation was as an Ironworker at J.D. Steel. Tapia started at $14 an hour and was bumped up to $15 an hour after a few months. As an Ironworker, Tapia was picking up and carrying rebar, a job he had for six months.
While at J.D. Steel, Tapia reached out to a Sun Tech foreman about getting certified in cement. Tapia says the foreman was receptive with saying, ‘That’s great, that’s great. We’re hiring at $20 an hour.’ Tapia thought about it and decided to go for an interview. Sun Tech hired him on the spot.
He credits Phoenix Job Corps for his success!
“I went to Phoenix Job Corps because I finished high school and I wanted to get a job at the shipyard in California where I’m from,” explained Tapia.
“My grandfather wanted me to get into school and get a trade. I found out about Phoenix Job Corps. I picked a trade and I ended up in cement. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It became more of a hobby. I studied all of the time. It grew on me. I’m proud of finishing. It took me a year.”
Tapia learned the skills of his trade through Cement Mason Instructor Richard Cedillo. “He really showed me the development of construction,” says Tapia. “When I first started, I had no idea. Mr. Cedillo knows a lot and he really shows you how to stick it out and finish your job and do well at it.”
“My job is to introduce them to the trade, teach them the basics and everything about it,” said Cedillo, who has been with Phoenix Job Corps 13 years and a union member for 44 years.
He admits pouring cement is a very physical and demanding job. Students must have PP or rather personal protective equipment on every day that includes gloves, hats, glasses, and steel-toed boots.
In residential construction jobs, graduates can expect to be pouring cement for floors, driveways and sidewalks. On commercial jobs, Cedillo says work could involve finishing the top of a wall or pouring a concrete slab.
Is there a key to success to teaching students? “Not necessarily,” says Cedillo. “Just that they’re here on time every day, ready to go to work, listen, participate. That’s the only way they’re going to do it hands on.”
Now that the economy is improving, Cedillo says it’s easier to place students in jobs. He says more employers are coming to Phoenix Job Corps to hire students graduating from the program.
As far as Tapia, Cedillo says, “I’m proud of Isidro. I’m glad he’s doing good. Everything he has learned here he’s able to apply that to his new job.”
Tapia says he definitely would recommend Phoenix Job Corps. “Phoenix Job Corps really opened my eyes to a whole new set of skills and helped me develop to be the person I am and make me comfortable with my career. Also, the knowledge makes me feel like I can do so much in my career because of it.”
His next goal is to learn more about the management and administration side of business. A long-term goal might be owning his own business.
“Owning your own business is definitely one of the coolest things, I think,” says Tapia.
By Melody Birkett, BCL