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Reaching new heights through training

Calvin Beck faced a choice in the summer of 2015.

Recently released after having served a prison sentence, living in a half-way house and working a job that didn’t pay well, Beck could choose to resume his old life or take a different path to a new one.

“The only reason I went to jail in the first place is about making money,” he said. “It’s a real-world struggle with me. There were days I wish I could just jump back into the game, but I know I couldn’t.”

Beck took the opportunity to enroll in a roofing training program delivered by Burns & Scalo in partnership with Partner4Work.

Today Beck’s living on the South Side. He’s earning a solid wage, has great benefits, and recently got a raise. “I can get to work, I got my own vehicle, got my license back,” he said.

The path to Beck’s new life started with a suggestion from a probation officer: Connect with a six-week training program to learn the roofing trade. Burns & Scalo and Partner4Work partnered to create the short-term roofing training program to provide unskilled labor the opportunity to learn a trade while providing a pool of talent for the company.

Donna Bodnar, Recruiting and Career Development Director at Burns & Scalo, Inc., said students like Beck learned the basics of roofing terminology as well as the importance of safety. The program held three classes in 2015 graduating 35 students and graduated 17 additional students in 2016. As part of the training, trainees earned OSHA 10 Hour certifications and received hands-on training in commercial and residential roofing as well as solar and sheet metal.

Beck was one of the first graduates and was immediately hired by Burns & Scalo in the sheet metal roofing department.

Burns & Scalo views the training program as a win-win situation. “Roofing is an unbelievably difficult industry as are many of the trades,” Bodnar said. “It is difficult to attract dependable workers who are able to work at heights in often extreme weather that most of us don’t want to go out in let alone work in. This is why we are proud of our workforce and are impressed and grateful for their ability to do a good job.”

Road to the future

Eric Edmondson has an experience similar to Beck and connected with the program in 2016.

“I came home from getting into trouble and being incarcerated and I was going through the Goodwill Job Placement program,” Edmondson said. “I saw an application for the training program. I like working with my hands and I always wanted to do a construction type of field and thought it might be a good experience and opportunity for growth within the company.”

Edmondson also is part of that workforce after graduating the training program in 2016. “They taught us different types of roofing and terminology and some shingling and metal work,” he said. “Once you graduate, as long as you finish the course with a 95 percent attendance rate, they (Burns & Scalo) were willing to give you a shot.” 

Edmondson was hired in the sheet metal department and now works mostly on commercial buildings installing metal roofing and downspouts. He’s closing in on his first anniversary with Burns & Scalo and recommends the program.

“If anybody wants to turn their life around … I got a place of my own now, so I have to worry about paying the bills,” he said. “I also have a 6-year-old daughter. I have to save for her future. I had no choice. It was either do it or keep going down the wrong path.” 

Bodnar says that’s one of the reasons the company created the training program.

“Burns & Scalo feels strongly about working in the community to help people learn a trade that would provide them the opportunity to making a living and raise a family,” she said. “We are always in need of skilled workers who can help us meet our high demand for labor so training people in the Burns & Scalo way, helps us meet that demand.

“I believe that one of the most rewarding things any of us can do is to help others find their way to make a living and motivate them to achieve their highest potential. When you see people like Calvin and Eric who have overcome serious obstacles, turned their lives around and work so hard to be successful, it inspires us to keep trying to find others like them who want to succeed.”