ComEd Welcomes New Students to Construction Workforce

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsLast week, ComEd held its ninth consecutive graduation ceremony celebrating the 90 students who partook in the ComEd CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy, an 11-week job training program that increases the number of diverse, skilled candidates for construction and related jobs in Chicagoland and northern Illinois. “As we round out CONSTRUCT’s ninth consecutive year, we take great pride in the 11-week training program that we’ve put together to offer the needed information and guidance to diverse candidates to compete for good-paying, entry-level field and office jobs in construction-related sectors,” Laticia Holbert, Workforce Development Manager at ComEd. Since 2013, nearly 600 students have completed the program with 70 percent of them securing employment shortly after graduating – many of them women, African Americans, and Latinos who historically have faced barriers to entering these industries. “CONSTRUCT was not only designed to provide participants with the opportunity to strengthen their job readiness and life skill sets, but it was also created to prepare them for industry-required testing that is often a prerequisite for employment – testing that many of these candidates would not have access to without the program.” Lawndale Bilingual News interviewed one of ComEd’s CONSTRUCT program newest graduates, Jesse Hernandez who shared his experience and what potential students can expect.

Lawndale Bilingual News: What circumstances were happening in your life that led you to ComEd’s CONSTRUCT program?
Jesse Hernandez: During the time I decided to apply to the program, I really had nothing going for myself. I had just gotten released from my job because of the winter season. I wasn’t working and I really had no way to help my family. I had job offers here and there, but they didn’t really meet the criteria I was looking for. Then I heard about the CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy from a close friend, so I decided to give it a try. A lot of thought came to applying for the program because I knew that it would truly get me closer to what I wanted to do.

Talk to me about your experience in ComEd’s CONSTRUCT program? How do you feel it has helped to transform your career?
My experience was great, to be honest! I never knew programs like this existed in my community. So, knowing that it was in my community meant a lot because I didn’t have to travel somewhere else to get this opportunity. The program was always so helpful whenever we needed any kind of support. We eventually had the opportunity to safely meet in person while following COVID-19 safety protocols, which made a huge difference to a lot of us. It showed us that they went out of their way to guide us through the process and offer a hand when needed.

The CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy helped me transform a lot in my career decisions, because I know that I don’t always have to settle for any job that comes my way. I can push myself to aim for bigger and better and for a career that I will be great in thanks to the help of ComEd and all of the partner agencies. Acquiring the skills that they have given us have truly set us up for success in our careers.

What aspect of the program do you feel was most beneficial to you?
For me, the most beneficial aspect of the CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy were the career fairs because ComEd always had great companies for us to connect with to help us decide for ourselves if we fit well within that company. There were always different companies available for us to network with and were all super helping in sharing their contact information so that we could reach out personally. ComEd and all of the partner agencies encouraged us to reach out to every employer at the career fairs. So, I always took that extra step and reached out because I knew that it would get me a step closer to getting my foot in the door. Another major benefit was getting my CDL permit, which has opened so many additional doors!

Why, in your opinion, do you believe this type of program is helpful for those in the construction industry, especially during a pandemic?
These types of programs are extremely important during the pandemic because the construction industry works around the clock – even in such unprecedented times. It is quite eye-opening when you start seeing the need and availability of occupations in the construction and utility fields; there is no shortage of jobs at all! They just keep increasing every month and year. Being a part of the construction industry, in my opinion, is among the best professions that one can get into. There are so many skills that you learn along the way and the opportunities to grow are endless!

What would you like potential students to know about ComEd’s CONSTRUCT program?
Make sure to sharpen up on your math skills and always come in with an open mind and positive attitude. Don’t sell yourself short, push for greatness and don’t stop pushing! This program will truly change your life and help you get a career that fits your level of skills. And don’t forget to network. Take every chance to connect with anyone that is willing to share their knowledge.

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