Web-first version: Info fair opens doors to apprenticeships, jobs building state health care facility

Men and women looking for work line up outside the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium for information about possible jobs in the construction trades. (Business Journal photo by Elizabeth Stevens)

Men and women looking for work line up outside the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium for information about possible jobs in the construction trades. (Business Journal photo by Elizabeth Stevens)

Central Valley Business Journal, January 2012

By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor

Hundreds went to the job info fair at the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium. Elizabeth Stevens

Hundreds of them showed up today in search of what has been so elusive for so many – a job.

They began lining up early at the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium in downtown Stockton for the construction jobs information fair sponsored by the city and the contractors building the California Health Care Facility south of Arch Road.

“I got here at 6 a.m. to be the first in line,” Joe Medrano, standing in line with his son, Jesse, said in the morning chill.

“It’s very, very important,” Medrano said of the event and the opportunity it offered. “It’s a matter of life.”

He said he recently returned to his native Stockton from Big Bear to be closer to his son and grandchildren.

“I just want to get my foot in the door, get some employment, and get reestablished here,” said Medrano.

“I just got married,” said his son. “It’s really important to get a job.”

Both men had professional experience in the trades and were hoping to find something inside the auditorium to help them garner a job.

The Madranos beat Tony Mayfield to the front of the line by 10 minutes. A journeyman painter out of work a year and a half, Mayfield also has been a professional handyman with his own business – Another Honest Day’s Work – in San Francisco and Oakland. Now living in Stockton, the 50-year-old Mayfield is hungry to get back to work, even if it is as an apprentice.

“I’ve been hitting the pavement every day looking for work,” said Mayfield. “I want to show by example to the younger folks about being employed.

“As you can see,” Mayfield said, looking back at the line that was forming outside the auditorium, “there aren’t many young people here.”

And while the front of the line seemed to be made up of men and women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, younger adults also arrived to the event to talk with contractors, subcontractors, union representatives, apprenticeship coordinators, and agencies offering pre-apprenticeship training. There were about 200 people in line before the doors opened and well more than 600 had gone through the doors in the first two hours alone. A final tally of the attendees was not immediately available.

“I think it’s a great turnout,” said Ken Adams, project manager for Granite Construction. “There are a lot of good people coming through the door looking for work. It’s impressive to look at the resumes of some of these people.”

The state of the economy means some people who once owned contracting business are now looking for stable work.

“People building million dollar homes now are willing to turn a shovel,” said Adams.

Granite is in a joint venture with Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to build a portion of California Health Care Facility, Stockton, a massive mental and medical care facility south of Arch Road and east of state Highway 99.

“Real good,” Seth Boles, operations manager for Hensel Phelps Construction Co., said of the fair turnout less than two hours into the event. “I think we met the expectations or exceeded them.”

“It’s a good crowd,” agreed Doug Wilhoit, chief executive officer of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. “And the businesses are well represented here today.”

Wilhoit said he hoped the jobs information fair helped attendees “to find as many jobs as possible.

“And I’m to see young people,” added Wilhoit, as two men in their late teens or early 20s walked by after visiting several booths.

“This construction fair will provide an opportunity for you and other construction job seekers to learn about potential construction employment opportunities – opportunities at the construction site for the new California Health Care Facility and opportunities associated with the city of Stockton, San Joaquin County Public Works, Caltrans, and other agencies,” read a portion of the flier attendees were handed as they entered the auditorium.

“Representatives from the building trade unions and apprenticeship programs are also here.”

In all, there were 61 vendor booths, from Granite/Hensel Phelps and Clark/McCarthy to city, county and state agencies to help attendees navigate through the process. Union locals representing iron workers, plumbers, roofers, heating and cooling techs, carpenters, masons, and more were on hand.

There will be 5,500 union and nonunion construction jobs at the site – 1,200 by the Fourth of July and 1,700 on any given day throughout the project – with most of them being filled by workers from within 50 miles of the site. Of the total, 20 percent will be filled by apprentices.

And that really was a focus of the event sponsored by the city of Stockton, Clark/McCarthy, and Granite/Hensel Phelps. Several pre-apprentice and apprentice programs were on hand with representatives eager to provide information about learning a trade that could be used on the California Health Care Facility project and beyond.

While wages for the jobs vary widely based on trade, training, experience, location of jobs, concessions made to win a contract, and more, informational material handed out by union locals provide a glimpse at what a worker can earn. An apprentice working with drywall might earn $18.46 to $30.51 per hour, depending on their progress in the apprenticeship program. An apprentice carpenter might earn just under $19 to just more than $30 per hour. An apprentice electrical worker might earn $14.85 to $28.05 per hour.

Turn to the February edition of the Central Valley Business Journal for more on the California Health Care Facility, Stockton project. Visit www.chcfstockton.com, www.clarkmccarthychcfstockton.com, or www.granitehenselphelpschcf.com for more information on the project and possible employment opportunities.

Contact the author about this and other stories at kmichaud@cvbizjournal.com.

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