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Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania puts teens on the RISE

| Sunday, July 21, 2013, 11:56 p.m.

Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania trained Dion Williams in the construction trades and helped him get a job at Construction Junction in Point Breeze. He started removing old fixtures and woodwork from buildings without damaging them so the nonprofit group can resell them and works in the warehouse.

“I credit (Goodwill) a lot for that,” said Williams, 21, of Homewood. “They trained me for the job and the interview, actually. Before the interview, they did mock interviews with everybody in the class. They made sure I got it down pat.”

Goodwill last year graduated Williams among its first class in the RISE Project, or Reentry through Industry Specific Education, and is recruiting a second class that will start the third week of August. The agency works with people who have barriers to employment such as a physical or mental disability, low income, little education, a criminal record or lack of computer training.

“We had a lot of students come in who had never touched tools before,” recalled Tiffanee Heywood, Pennsylvania CareerLink site administrator. “We had students who had never gone to work before, so we were helping get their first job. We had students who had dropped out of school, and they weren't used to sitting in a classroom environment.”

Seventy percent of the training is hands-on. The free classes run eight to 10 weeks, depending on the needs of the trainee. Classes cover fields such as carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, brick masonry, landscaping, facilities management, painting, green building and weatherization. They take place in the Goodwill facility at 2400 E. Carson St. in the South Side.

Besides construction work, Goodwill teaches students how to dress for an interview and for work; how to write a resume and sell themselves during an interview; and how to act at work.

For example, Heywood said, Goodwill taught them not to recite raunchy rap lyrics or discuss the wild party they attended.

“A lot of them felt when they were on their lunch break, they could talk about anything they want,” she said. “We tell them they're still being judged, they're representing themsleves, and they're being watched.”

Fourteen of the 18 students received jobs upon completing the training, which is certified by the Home Builders Institute. Three students, including Williams, are working in construction trades.

Derek Stoltz, store manager of Construction Junction, called Williams a “phenomenal” worker.

“He's very young and very ambitous,” he said.

Williams wants to enroll in a technical school and eventually land a full-time job at Construction Junction.

Amir Freeman is among the program's graduates who got a job in a field other than construction. He is working at Landmark Security as a guard or usher at concerts. In the fall, he'll work at Pittsburgh Steelers games.

“If I hadn't gone to the Goodwill Center, I still probably would be struggling to figure out how to make a resume,” said Freeman, 19, of the Hill District.

Bill Zlatos is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7828 or

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