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NWCOC Featured in the Business Tribune

June 22, 2017
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Shovel-ready scholars  

Joseph Gallivan

06 June 2017

 

Northwest College of Construction students attend their graduation ceremony in a boom time.

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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ADAM WICKHAM – James Phillips, his wife Maryann and son Noah, at Jamess graduation ceremony. While working for Gregory Pacific, Phillips has done mainly footings and pipe laying. He expects his basic wage to go from $16 an hour to $20.66, the BOLI mandated minimum for qualified laborers.

 

The labor shortage in construction means it’s a good time to get in on the ground floor. That was the thinking of several worker-students at the Northwest College of Construction’s recent graduation celebration.

The Class of 2017 gathered at the Embassy Suites near Portland International Airport to mark their commencement. Students including sheet metalworkers, carpenters, heavy equipment operators, masons, tilers and laborers, who brought their families for dinner and to see them walk the stage.

Most students enter the college with some sort of experience: they’ve helped family members with building jobs, or they have worked in construction and want to specialize. Last October the Business Tribune looked at a class of Oregon-Columbia Laborers (Going into labor, Oct. 28, 2016).

Their instructor was Cory Fisher, who had been a laborer and progressed to his current day job as a welder in construction.

Fisher had six students in his laborers class. Three made it to graduation. One guy, he said, went back to his old job. Another went to work for a union. Another, Andy Sorrick of Mill City Oregon, an outspoken young man with a military background, left to be a gunsmith.

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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ADAM WICKHAM – Northwest College of Construction instructor Cory Fisher is a welder by day but teaches laboring to long distance learners. He says employers are loyal to graduates to who are loyal to them. Laborer Graduate of the Year Jonathan Anaya credits the school with encouraging employers give him more opportunity and better pay. Katrina Cloud, NWCC Director of Apprenticeship, introduced the graduates and speakers NWCC President Bob Strader and Brad Avakian, the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

 

In the hot May sunset, Fisher was working the phone the evening of May 25, 2017. Of the nine graduates listed in the laborers section, only two had come for the ceremony. That’s not surprising since they are mostly long-distance learners: they work full time and often live outside Portland. Typically, they cram their study time at the college into a Friday night and Saturday, and do their homework at home — after work.

Fisher was worried because Graduate of the Year, Jonathan Anaya, hadn’t shown up. The pre-func drinks around the fountain were over. The dining room was crowded and the servers were starting to move amongst them, filling wine glasses and setting down plates. Fisher dialed and texted for a while until he finally got a hold of Anaya.

Twenty minutes later, the slight 27-year-old hurried in wearing a clean shirt and smiling.

At five o’clock he had gotten off work in Vancouver, where he is laying pipe in a subdivision. Then he had to fetch a rental car and go home and pack for a family trip to Manteca, 17 miles from Stockton, California. He was planning to drive straight through the evening but put it off until nighttime at his teacher’s request.

Why does he think he made graduate of the year?

“I think it’s because I’ve been busting my ass!” says Anaya with a smile. “I work really hard, never miss class, I try to do my best on the tests.”

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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ADAM WICKHAM – Cy Robertson, a cousin of Jarvis Zirkle, is also a carpenter, and has worked on many Portland area projects. His friend in Reno is making $2,000 a week, which is tempting, but he doesnt wan to leave his family behind in Portland for work.

Deadly

In his job with excavator firm Tapani Underground of Battleground, Washington, Anaya has worked his way up from helper to top hand, (the person on the top of the ditch) to pipe layer (the person in the trench). He has handled pipe from 10 inches in diameter to 18 inches, although they get as big as 24 inches. They work on sewer, water and storm water in the growing Vancouver suburbs. An excavator lowers the pipe into place, but the pipe layer is down in the trench placing and connecting it.

He says he has seen small accidents, nothing serious. But it’s a dangerous trade.

“There’s a lot of deaths in my occupation. You’ve got to be alert, you can die. The dirt caves in, a machine can hit you…”

Anaya likes pipe laying but he wants to work for a couple more years then return to the same school for the HVAC certificate.

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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ADAM WICKHAM – Jarvis Zirkle and his daughter Ladonna. Zirkle is a carpenter, and says there is plenty of work right now in Portland.

 

Loyal workers

Reece Stone, Wyatt Fowler and Andrew Sorrick: The three from Fisher’s class who graduated are still working for the same companies after two years.

“They are loyal to the contractors they work for because they treat (the workers) good. There’s opportunity, but the guys who stayed in school are loyal.”

He says as properly trained laborers they can now move up the ladder.

“As a laborer you learn a little bit of everything, you’re a Jack-of-all trades. Then you figure out what you like and what you’re more skilled at.”

Any kind of management skill is highly valued in a high turnover workforce. “They can move into whatever position they want. We teach introduction to crew leadership skills. That’s the way many of them want to go.”

They could be leading crews of heavy machinery operators, other laborers or carpenters.

“All the guys I have left are real committed. They haven’t given up.”

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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ADAM WICKHAM – Laborer Graduate of the Year Jonathan Anaya credits the school with encouraging employers give him more opportunity and better pay.

 

Money talks

And the pay does go up. Another graduate from the Laborer group, James Phillips, was there with his wife Maryann and son Noah.

Phillips has worked for Gregory Pacific for a year. They are based out of Lake Oswego but they do excavation for civil and commercial projects all over Portland, Southwest Washington and even as far as Eugene.

“We generally do footings and pipe laying,” says Phillips. “We did all the footings for 12th and Market,” an apartment building in progress downtown a few blocks from the Portland Art Museum. His firm dug the dirt and laid down everything under the concrete.

“We put the rock in and compacted it. I learned a bit here (in school) but most of it out in the field. What I love about the school is you get a little bit of seat time and a lot of time in field.”

He’s psyched to be a laborer.

“I love it, I’ve always loved working with my hands. I mainly worked shoveling and on the jumping jack or the whacker-packer. It’s a compacting device.”

Currently he earns $16 an hour, but he says the last letter he got from BOLI said that his minimum wage as a qualified laborer will go up to $20.66 an hour.

Does he have any advice for prospective students?

“Have fun, dig deep, don’t quit.”

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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ADAM WICKHAM – Katrina Cloud, NWCC Director of Apprenticeship, introduced the graduates and speakers NWCC President Bob Strader and Brad Avakian, the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

 

Tailgate this

In his address to the guests, NWCC President Bob Strader borrowed a theme from a TED Talk and reminded the students that they have grit.

“Google defines grit as strength of character, hardiness, backbone, determination and courage.”

He also informed them that, “As a graduate, you’re alumni. NWCC is now your alma mater. We don’t have a football team and tailgates in the parking lot, but we do offer continuing education. And it’s pretty likely the industry is going to pay for your education as you continue on this path.”

Strader urged them to spread the word to their friends and family. He said most of the college’s application referrals come that way. “Tell everyone about your journey, how the college got you a job in construction. Do all of that for your alma mater and maybe one day we will have a football team.”

 

Cousins

Cy Robertson and Jarvis Zirkle were shining examples of the friends and family nature of NWCC’s intake. They are cousins and came to celebrate with their kids and extended family.

Robertson was in the carpentry finish program. He was pretty excited to be close to graduating, needing just a few more hours. The course takes four years, with 8,000 hours required of on the job training, and 144 hours per year of bookwork.

He now works for LG Contractors, but has worked for R&H and Primo.

“I’ve been bouncing around. The longest is three years straight with the different companies. I wanted to get different experience,” he said.

Robertson describes his work as going from bare ground to a completed building, such as an office or hotel. The investment boom has sent steady work his way. He worked on a New Seasons in Woodstock from start to finish, and on another one in Tualatin.

“I work with wood, steel, tile, concrete, landscaping…Every aspect of making a property go from bare space to livable space.”

He has done roofing, wood framing, metal framing, welded some flowerpots, and done the finishing of walls and floors and installed door hardware.

“I knew a little before, that’s why I was interested in the program. With the card I’ll be able to go anywhere and I have a general knowledge of carpentry.”

The card (his graduation certificate) would help him join the carpenters union.

“I just spoke to my buddy who is in the union. He’s living near Reno, Nevada, making $2,000 a week. There are plans to build a Tesla (battery) factory there. That’s a four-, five-, maybe even eight-year job.”

Would he head to Reno?

“I’d love to go, but my lady and everyone is here, and she doesn’t want to go. I love Oregon so I want to stay in Portland.”

His cousin Jarvis Zirkle is in a similar situation. “I’ve always been a builder,” says Zirkle. “I enjoy working with my hands.”

He works for Wood Mechanics, a framing outfit. If you see a concrete base, stick-built apartment building going up around Portland right now, that’s the sort of job he’s on.

“Yeah, stick framing,” he says with a smile. “We do a lot of multi family homes.”

He was there with his daughter, Ladonna.

“We’ll stay in Portland. There’s jobs all over the place. There’s plenty of work right now.”

 

“Changed my life”

Graduate of the Year Jonathan Anaya made a point of adding to his interview. He was pleased with the college.

“Put in the paper that this is a great school and it really changed my life,” he said.

“I used to work for small companies and they wouldn’t pay me too good, there was no room for opportunity or advancement. At school I learned a lot, I’ve grown a lot. Anyone considering getting to school should do it.”

 

NWCC Commencement

Brad Avakian, the commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, gave the commencement address. He was introduced as having degrees in psychology and law and as having worked as a civil rights and labor attorney. He came clean about coming from a trade family but never having been a blue-collar worker himself. He told the story of his grandfather who came from Armenia as a tile setter and retrained as a carpenter.

That man had seven sons who were all electricians and carpenters. Avakian remembered riding though the streets of Fresno and his dad telling him that the neighborhood was built by his grandfather and uncle.

“They taught me a lot about the importance of being a tradesperson to the rest of society. Not one of us will get married in a church, shop in a store, go to class in a school or drive on road that was not built by skilled tradespeople.”

He went on to plug his initiative to return shop class to Oregon middle and high schools — and he meant 21st-century shop class. In Beaverton they study biomedicine, and students in Bend design (using CAD) an electric car, fabricate the sheet metal body, install the motor and braking systems and, finally, race their electric cars on the local track.

“You graduates will build this state and this county, and no one else can do it like you, so do it.”

Avakian added: “You are graduating at a great time. We used to have out of state contractors coming in and outbidding us, it was a tough time. That’s changing. There is work out there now. The folk who are starting to build things are looking for folks exactly like you. You’ve learned skills which will earn a lot of money for you and family, for a lifetime. And you have become part of a brotherhood and a sisterhood of other trade workers who will support you.”

See the original article here: 

http://www.pamplinmedia.com/but/239-news/362264-241250-shovel-ready-scholars

 

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Immediate Openings for Construction Craft Laborers

February 22, 2017
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Applications will be accepted for Construction Craft Laborers
on any regular business day during regular business hours.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS:
18 years of age (minimum-must provide proof of age)
All applicants must also:
• Test negative in a standard substance abuse test
• Complete Orientation
• Complete Safety Training
• Complete week-long pre-construction training

Compensation: $11.73-$19.55 Minimum starting wage
Employment type: Full-Time

This program is registered with the Oregon State Apprenticeship & Training Council and is recognized by Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council under the terms and conditions of the reciprocal agreement.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click on the announcement from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry:

http://www.oregon.gov/boli/ATD/docs/Opening_Announcements/2023_20161201_20170630_Laborer.pdf

Northwest College of Construction
8111 NE Holman Street
Portland, OR 97218
Phone: 503-256-7300
Toll Free: 1-800-309-1442
www.nwcoc.com

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Heroes Memorial

July 6, 2011
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by Team
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In 2008/2009, The Northwest College of Construction was proud to be a part of the construction efforts, in cooperation with local suppliers and contractors, to build the Gresham Heroes Memorial.

The Gresham Heroes Memorial provides a permanent place to honor the men and women who have served in all branches of the military or the fire and police services. The memorial is located at the corner of Powell Boulevard and Roberts at 219 South Main Street.

The memorial is managed by a task force of volunteers. These volunteers organized an effort to fund the memorial largely from grants and donations.

In March 2004, then City Councilor, Jack Hanna, requested approval from the Gresham City Council to establish a Task Force to raise the funds to build a Memorial to all men and women in Military, Fire, and Police services. The Council agreed and in, April the Task Force was formed. But there was one condition – there would be no City money involved. And so it began . . .

After five years of fund raising and a year of construction on May 2, 2009, the Heroes Memorial & Tribute was dedicated. She was built through the generosity of citizens and corporate sponsors and one of the few projects within the City that was completely paid-in-full on the day of dedication. Located within the parameters of an area known as Small Park, which had been cared for by the Optimists Club for many years, on the corner of Powell and Roberts adjacent to Main City Park in the heart of downtown Gresham, Oregon.

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