Pre-apprenticeship program boosts youth interest in trade careers

One regional builder is counting on a pre-apprenticeship program to help fill the void of skilled workers entering the field.

Kinsley Construction, which has a Wyomissing office, has been offering a pre-apprenticeship program for students interested in entering the construction industry. Here, instructor Steven Taylor works with students on a project. (Submitted) –

For the 2017-18 school year, Kinsley Construction of York collaborated with the York County Alliance for Learning to offer their program to high school seniors who showed an interest in construction and want to pursue a career or apprenticeship program in the field.

Kinsley, has 1,400 employees across the mid-Atlantic, including its location in Wyomissing, Berks County.

Officials say they will continue offering the pre-apprenticeship program, citing its success.

Throughout the school year, students participate in 10 sessions at the Kinsley Education Center in York, including 10 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration training, lessons on blueprint reading and framing, and sessions where they build a six-foot-by-eight-foot house.

The program is free. The company asks students to bring their own steel-toed boots, and provides all the tools and equipment required, footing the entire bill for the program.

The program is showing signs of growth. Consider:

  • 13 seniors completed the pre-apprenticeship program in the 2017-18 school year. Of those, nine continued careers in the trades or entered into Kinsley’s apprenticeship program.
  • In the 2018-19 school year, 10 seniors completed the program and Kinsley accepted nine into the program.
  • This school year, 19 seniors started the program.

While Kinsley has had an apprenticeship program since 2000, it had been thinking about starting a pre-apprenticeship program as a way to capture younger workers. The program allows students to explore a career while developing transferrable skills before entering the workforce.

“Over the past years, pre-apprenticeship programs kept coming up in discussions,” said Deb Rohrbaugh, associate director of Kinsley’s apprenticeship program. “No one really wanted to get the ball rolling. On the business side, people were leery. I approached the board and asked if they would consider a pre-apprenticeship program in construction.”

They did and Rohrbaugh said the program has been a very positive one.

At Kinsley, the apprentices mentor students in the pre-apprenticeship program, she added.

“It typically increases the success rates of the students,” said Kevin Apnel, executive director of the York Alliance of Learning. “Their success rates are higher if they completed a pre-apprenticeship program and they go into an apprenticeship program.”


Communication is key

Data from the state Department of Labor & Industry shows those who complete a pre-apprenticeship program are more likely to complete an apprenticeship and have a retention rate of 80 percent, nearly 25 percent higher than the national apprenticeship rate.

Good communication is a key skill that both partners stress is important for getting into in any profession and one they fully promote in construction.

“Communication is the most important tool in the tool box,” Apnel said. “We are trying to make them employable. They let them make mistakes so they can learn.”

The pre-apprenticeship program kicks off in September and ends in April, Apnel said. Kinsley would rather train the students in-house so it can customize the training for students, he added.

The school also gives the students credits for participating. Some 21 school systems are served by the York County Alliance for Learning. Last year, 11 districts participated; this year there are 19, Rohrbaugh said.

The OSHA training helps participants realize the safety aspect of what construction is about, she said. In addition, employees from Kinsley share details of what they do, such as highway and bridgework, iron working, carpentry and other divisions, with students.


Real-world experience

While carpentry is the focus of the pre-apprenticeship program, participants can explore other areas.

Rohrbaugh estimated that the company invests tens of thousands of dollars in training for this program. However, the investment is a worthy one, according to company officials.

If companies can’t connect with the workforce emerging from high schools, the industry will see a labor shortage, she said.

She sees the program as something that’s also valuable to the apprentices as well.

“It’s also a good training time for our apprentices,” she said.

The company strives to make the experience as much of a real-world experience as possible, she said.

“I see this program as sort of multidimensional,” said Taryn Kuhn, senior director of marketing and communications for Kinsley Construction. “It’s providing opportunities for high school students. It’s a feeder into the apprenticeship program, providing opportunities across all divisions.

“Some of our very first apprentices are still working for Kinsley today decades later,” she said. “It’s really a catalyst for them to build a career and move up through the organization.”

The sky really is the limit, according to Rohrbaugh.

Out of the first group of apprentices in 2000, three are working for Kinsley.

It’s always a possibility that apprentices may leave after graduation, said Sarah McCauley, marketing content coordinator for Kinsley Construction.

“We’re thankful almost all continue their career at Kinsley and we credit that to the company culture, the strong relationships they build with their mentors and the experience they’ve gained through our programs.”

Payroll giant celebrates grand opening in Allentown with 1,000 employees

Though ADP began filling up space in Five City Center in downtown Allentown in July, the company made their presence official Oct. 10 with a ribbon cutting ceremony outside its new office space at Eighth and Hamilton streets.

Gov. Tom Wolf was among the officials who spoke at ADP’s grand opening on Oct. 10 in downtown Allentown. (Photo By Brian Pedersen) –

In Allentown, ADP previously occupied space in the Morning Call building and BB&T building in and an office building in the Iron Run Corporate Center on Windsor Drive in Upper Macungie Township. Now, all Lehigh Valley ADP employees are under one roof in the 13-story Allentown building.

After looking at what was happening in downtown Allentown and gauging where ADP employees lived, the company ultimately settled on the city as the place to unite its growing work force.

The Roseland, New Jersey-based firm leased 10 floors of Five City Center, and officials cited the building’s open floor plan, proximity to amenities and urban vibe as essential selling points in attracting and maintaining the type of workforce it wants.

“It’s been an incredible success for us,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of ADP. “Part of the reason we’ve grown is the successful track record of talent.”

For its most recent fiscal year results, ADP has about 810,000 businesses that are part of the ADP network, Rodriguez said. These clients range from small businesses to global companies and ADP is the payroll company for nearly 40 million people worldwide. Revenue has been growing about 5 percent to 10 percent year over year, he said.

Rodriguez attributes this growth to the employees. With employees in Allentown occupying a building that fosters innovation and collaboration; he said he expects to expand further in the building.

“We definitely have space capacity so you will see us continue to grow,” Rodriguez said. “This kind of critical mass creates huge career progression.”

Rodriguez said ADP started looking for new office space because it was running out of room in its Lehigh Valley locations.

“We just felt like we needed to bring everybody together,” Rodriguez said.

J.B. Reilly, president and CEO of City Center Investment Corp. came to ADP through a contact, which led to the company deciding on the Five City Center space, he added.

The space contains ADP’s Inside Sales Centers of Excellence, with an open environment and large windows throughout.

“We have had good success going into more urban locations,” Rodriguez said. “It all goes back to the talent. This kind of workforce appreciates that. I think it’s very inviting.”

Tom Perrotti, president of worldwide sales and marketing for ADP, said Five City Center’s location helps represent what ADP is trying to do as a company that wants to be the employer of choice.

Its new office space also shows the commitment ADP has to the city, he added. It also reflects how the company, now in its 70th year, is adapting to changes in the marketplace.

“We repositioned our brand as a company that designs products for people,” Perrotti said. “We focus all our energy on making sure we are winning in the marketplace.”

Gov. Tom Wolf was among the officials who attended the grand opening and spoke about he had been a customer of ADP’s when he was a business owner before becoming governor.

He described ADP’s decision to establish a large office space in Allentown as an example of the resurgence happening in the city.

Reilly said ADP’s presence is a significant part of the redevelopment occurring in the downtown.

It validates the rise of the city and will help attract other businesses as well, he added.









Report: Strong demand for cold storage poses challenges for developers

As grocery delivery gains popularity, so too does the need for facilities to store these items.

In the valley, these facilities do exist. However, there’s not enough to meet the demand.

United States Cold Storage recently opened a freezer warehouse built by Primus Builders in Richland Township near Quakertown. (Submitted) –

A new report by real estate firm CBRE said developers and investors are grappling with the specialized requirements needed to build new cold storage warehouses.

“It’s tough to build in the valley close to interstates,” said William Wolf, executive vice president of CBRE at its Upper Macungie Township office. “It’s just a general condition to what’s happening in the valley.”

Developers can build them from the ground up, but they are costly. The other alternative is to take an existing warehouse and convert it to cold storage or create a hybrid part dry/part cold storage warehouse, he added.

As home delivery grows for groceries, prepared meals and pharmaceutical/medical products, Wolf said he sees the risk of the shortage of temperature-controlled space to meet the growing demands of an emerging market.

“They are just going to look at other locations,” Wolf said. “As home delivery starts to grow, you aren’t going to be able to handle it out of the back of supermarkets.”

However, this will create opportunities for developers willing to address the looming necessity, he added.

Cold storage facilities do exist in Bethlehem, Fogelsville and other areas of the valley, but what makes them difficult to build is the higher construction cost, longer completion times, and specialized equipment needed for temperature control.

The report said these storage facilities cost on average two to three times as much as traditional dry warehouses, partly because of the need for insulated metal paneling, mechanical equipment, refrigeration equipment, and rooftop equipment, subfloor heating and other elements.

First, construction of these cold storage warehouses can often take four to five months longer than traditional warehouses.

Second, cold storage warehouses need much taller ceilings, often 40 to 60 feet, as compared to the 34 to 36 feet required for traditional warehouses.

Third, these facilities need to maintain specific temperatures depending on the inventory, which is why they need significantly more equipment.

The higher ceiling heights these facilities require could pose ordinance issues with municipalities, Wolf added.

However, by going up as opposed to out, these facilities can store more products in a smaller footprint.

According to the report, CBRE sees three major shifts defining the rise in development and construction of cold storage facilities in the coming years.

First, developers will need to construct more facilities on speculation, or build facilities without tenants signed up. Spec building is a rarity in cold storage and boosting it might require additional developers and specialized contractors to enter the market, the report said.

Second, small markets will likely see more cold storage construction. Most construction has taken place in large markets for decades, but rising land and construction costs are likely to push developers and end users to smaller nearby markets.

Third, the report said automation would become more common, which would allow big retailers and other users to streamline processes and improve productivity.

Wolf said the facilities would still need many workers who are skilled in mechanical labor to make sure all the equipment is operating properly.

“The industry has to change to adapt to it,” Wolf said.

A number of developers will take on these facilities, Wolf said, noting that they generate higher rents. Furthermore, more investors will invest in cold storage.

“Right now it’s very difficult to find space for cold storage in the valley and it has been for the past few years,” Wolf said. “Traditionally, it’s been build-to-suit. But now I think you have some developers who will build these on spec but it would be interesting to see what will happen. I think we are in the early stages of this demand cycle for cold storage.”








$14M new community center focuses on healthy living

The leaders of a senior living campus in Doylestown marked the opening of a new community center.

Pine Run Retirement Community marked the grand opening if its new $14 million community center in Doylestown. (Submitted) –

Pine Run Retirement Community, owned by Doylestown Health, completed the $14 million project that involved building a new community center in two phases after a groundbreaking in spring 2017.

The two-story, 37,000-square-foot building includes a pool, fitness center and bar and grill, with all amenities open to both the retirement community and the Pine Run staff, which is 600 employees, said Maria Santangelo, executive director at Pine Run.

The first phase of construction included three indoor and two outdoor dining galleries overlooking the pond as well as a café. The second phase included an expanded fitness center with new equipment, space for classes, an indoor pool and a 175-seat auditorium. In addition, the center has a library, computer nook, living room with fireplace, a hair and nail salon and a country store.

Designed by AG Architecture of Wisconsin and built by Gorski Engineering of Collegeville, the center uses environmentally friendly green materials to reduce energy costs. The site incorporates a rain garden with plantings, a greenhouse, and a pond with new landscaping.

“We could not take our old building down because it had a dining venue,” Santangelo said. “Once that was completed, we were able to knock down our old venue and build new.”

The Pine Run Community Center is also open to the outside community for catered events, she added.

“Healthy living is the overreaching thought, using those resources to promote healthy living,” Santangelo said. “We built this building with the understanding that we would become the destination for senior living. The way to do that is to provide amenities they need and expect.”

These include upscale dining, fitness, and life enrichment activities, she said.

Pine Run offers a continuum of care setting. The organization has 106 residents in personal care, 90 in skilled nursing, 40 residents in memory care and 342 in independent living, she said.

Part of the funding for the community center came from Pine Run’s One Vision Campaign, a fundraiser that seeks to raise $75 million by 2023. So far, the organization raised a little more than $60 million, she said.

The majority of the funding for the community center came from Doylestown Hospital, Santangelo said.

Two other new nearby Doylestown Health construction projects are nearing completion. One project is the Cardiovascular and Critical Care Pavilion, housing the Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care. Ron Watson, spokesperson for Doylestown Health System, said the hospital would start moving patients to the cardiovascular floor on Jan. 2.

The other project is the Ambulatory Center on the health system’s flagship campus, with its same-day surgery center, orthopedic offices and rehabilitation facilities, which will be finished in summer 2020, he said.

Trucking company expands operations with $2.5M investment

Evans Delivery Co., an over-the-road trucking company and broker based in Schuylkill Haven, said it would expand its operations with a $2.5 million investment.

Evans Delivery Co. of Schuylkill Haven said it would embark on an expansion project that would add 65 jobs over the next three years. (Thinkstock) –

The company plans to acquire and renovate a nearby 9,046-square-foot-office building and demolish an existing car wash to create a corporate annex and 70 parking spaces that would complement its headquarters.

Bert Evans, board chair of Evans Delivery, said the company has about 150 employees and would increase that by 65 people over the next three years.

“We like the workforce here, it’s a very loyal workforce,” Evans said.

The company’s headquarters is two blocks away from what would become a new location for more employees.

“We are planning to move our safety department to that location,” Evans said. “This would enable us to put them all in one spot.”

The company will keep the other location open that contains all the functions of the company and serves as its headquarters. The expansion will allow the company the space to grow those departments as well, he added.

The project would consolidate back office jobs currently performed out of state, nearer to the company’s 60,000-square-foot-headquarters. The company will invest at least $2,482,658 in the project.

Evans Delivery received a funding proposal from the state Department of Community & Economic Development for the project. The proposal includes a $250,000 Pennsylvania First grant; $65,000 in job creation tax credits to be distributed once the company adds the new jobs; and a $17,400 workforce development grant to help the company train workers.

The Governor’s Action Team coordinated the project.

Five local organizations also contributed to the revitalization project: the Downtown Merchants, the Island Organization, Penn State Schuylkill, the Heritage River Group, and the Walk In Art Center.

Evans said the company decided to form the Walk In Art Center as a 501c3 organization a few years ago to draw people into Schuylkill Haven to help with the redevelopment of the town. It then became a catalyst to get the other organizations involved in helping out and now, Schuylkill Haven has a vibrant downtown area as opposed to large numbers of vacant and for sale buildings, he added.

“We’ve been very lucky, very fortunate and as a result we want to give back as much as we can,” Evans said.

Evans Delivery Co. is part of The Evans Network of Companies, which includes 34 brands at more than 350 locations, and a fleet of 7,050 trucks.


Retirement community expands in Bethlehem

Senior living continues to be a strong market in the Lehigh Valley, as evidenced by an expansion of an existing 55 and older community in Bethlehem.

Moravian Village is embarking on an expansion of Market Street Cottages, a project under construction by Bracy Construction Inc. of South Whitehall Township.

Moravian Village is embarking on an expansion of Market Street Cottages, a project under construction in Bethlehem by Bracy Construction Inc. (Photo by Brian Pedersen) –

Joe Jackson, project manager for Bracy Construction, said the project should be finished by spring.

Workers are constructing four buildings, with two townhouse units in each. Each building is 6,700 square feet, including the basements, but not including the garages, he said.

The townhouses have two bedrooms and one bathroom in each.

“Most of the people purchasing the units are fitting out the basements as well,” Jackson said.

He said workers spent a lot of time removing unsuitable soils and are now working on the foundations and utilities and will soon start framing the units.

Brad Senick, COO at Bethlehem Area Moravians, part of the Moravian Development Corp., said the community would have 113 cottages upon completion of the project.

“We obviously have the demand for additional units,” Senick said. He described the new units as similar to what already exists, but with some minor revisions.

He declined to disclose the estimated construction cost.

Lenhardt Rodgers Architects and Interiors of Fort Washington is the architect for the project.





New restaurant slated for Bethlehem bar and grill

While Roosevelt’s 21st has been a fixture in Bethlehem for more than a decade, the owners have closed the business and are renovating the property to create a new restaurant that should open later this month.

Workers take down parts of the exterior of Roosevelt’s 21st in Bethlehem to create a new restaurant. (Photo by Brian Pedersen) –

Michael Relvas, co-owner, said they are changing the name and entire concept of Roosevelt’s. It will become 21 Craft House and Kitchen, with an entirely new interior and exterior look.

“It was ready for an update,” Relvas said. “We wanted to try to get away from the stigma that we are just a college bar. I can also understand how people can think that because we are across from Moravian College’s field.”

While he does not want to push out the college crowd, he would also like to expand his audience and attract new customers. He wants to create a more inviting place, which is why they changed the name.

Art Kassis is the co-owner.

Workers will add two large accordion doors that will open to the outside and inside, they removed the D.J. booth.

On Thursday, workers were in the demolition phase, working on the interior, which will have a more industrial look, with new tile and furniture.

Alfero Co. of Easton is the firm working on the project.

Relvas said he also hired a new chef, William Romero, who most recently worked at Wind Creek Bethlehem. Travis Schuch will be the new general manager.

The new restaurant will employ about 30 people.

Relvas said the new restaurant would offer more gastropub type food with an eclectic twist, different variations on traditional favorites. He plans to update the menu each season.

The address is 21 E. Elizabeth Ave. in Bethlehem.


Keystone-Harley Davidson buys land in Whitehall for new dealership

By next fall, Whitehall Township will have a new Keystone Harley-Davidson dealership near the busy intersection of MacArthur and Eberhardt roads.

Keystone-Harley Davidson plans to open a new dealership off MacArthur Road in Whitehall Township in fall 2020. (Submitted) –

Bob Eggstein, owner of Keystone Harley-Davidson, said he would move his dealership, which has about 25 employees in Parryville, Carbon County, to the Whitehall location when it opens in fall 2020.

Feinberg Real Estate Advisors LLC of South Whitehall Township, said it represented Keystone Harley-Davidson, from contact to closing, in the purchase of about three acres at 2800 Eberhardt Road for the 25,000-square-foot dealership.

Cindy McDonnell Feinberg said she represented Keystone Harley-Davidson for real estate brokerage services and Gregg Feinberg of Feinberg Law Office provided legal services for the purchase, township approvals, financing, title insurance and closing of the property.

The land sold for slightly more than $1 million.

Steve Cihylik of Hanna Frederick Commercial in South Whitehall Township represented the seller, Gilboy Ford-Mercury, Inc.

“It has been a long process to get all this done,” Eggstein said. “There has not been a Harley-Davidson dealership in the Lehigh Valley for more than 10 years.”

Harley-Davidson had a dealership slightly outside the valley in Coopersburg that closed in 2011. A long time ago, it had a dealership near Planet Trog, a laser tag center off MacArthur Road in Whitehall, he said.

Harley-Davidson Motor Co. was interested in having a dealership in the region again, he said.

Eggstein said many of his employees at the Parryville location live between the Lehigh Valley and Parryville, so most if not all would be coming with the company to Whitehall.

“It’s not only a big market for our current customers, it’s going to give us access to a deeper demographic down there,” Eggstein said.

Keystone Harley-Davidson will introduce an electric motorcycle next week and eventually start offering other products such as “street fighter” bikes, adventure touring bikes for varied terrain and electric bikes for kids, he added.

The new dealership will also offer charging stations for bikes and vehicles.

“It also opens up a market for our service markets,” Eggstein said.

Typically, the Parryville site gets busier on weekends because that’s when many customers come in for service. However, the Whitehall location offers opportunities for people to stop in more frequently during the week.

“It goes from a destination dealership to an ‘on the way’ dealership,” Eggstein said.

The Feinbergs were instrumental in navigating the complexities of this type of development project, he added.

“It was a great project, it certainly had a lot of complexities to it,” said Cindy McDonnell Feinberg. “We were in search of a location that would offer convenience for Harley clients and be a great central Lehigh Valley location.”

The search for the property began in 2014.

Though Eggstein declined to disclose the estimated construction cost, he plans to have site work start in November and complete the construction in fall 2020.

The company hired Boyle Construction of South Whitehall Township as the construction firm and MKSD architects of South Whitehall Township as the architect.

Construction to begin next month on $15M Easton mixed-use development

Approved by city officials in August, The Commodore project in downtown Easton should see the start of construction next month.

The Commodore, an eight-story mixed-use project that will go up at the gateway to downtown Easton. (Submitted) –

The eight-story project will include 1,700 square feet of retail space; 15,000 square feet of Class-A office space, a 6,200-square-foot rooftop restaurant and 32 residential units, with an estimated construction cost of $10 million to $15 million.

The project site is at the corner of Northampton Street and Larry Holmes Drive and serves as a main gateway to the city from the free bridge that connects to Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

The developer, Garett Vassel of Optima Durant Group in New York City, selected Jerdon Construction Services LLC of Upper Macungie Township as the construction firm for the project. Vassel said he signed a couple of letters of intent for a co-working company that would occupy some of the office space and a coffee shop that would occupy some of the retail space. Aside from those potential tenants, Vassel is still analyzing the space for the restaurant.

The architects are finalizing the designs and workers should start with demolition and then construction in November, said Ron Jerdon, president. The project should take about 12 months to complete, with a potential completion in November/December, he added.

The developer plans to preserve the historic character of the original 1880’s structure. Over the years, the building served as a chocolate factory, furniture store, liquor store, clothing store and most recently, Kaplan’s, an awning supplier. Workers will maintain the historic brick façade of the building with the 1946 addition, requiring demolition to make way for the additional space, according to Jerdon.

Artefact Architecture of Bethlehem and Beers Engineering of Lehighton are two other local firms working on the project.

On Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m., Vassel will share details about the project at the site at 100 Northampton St. At the “Inside Look” event, he will offer attendees a look at the plan for the mixed-use building.

For more information email [email protected].

New York City firm reveals renovation plans for Allentown Plaza building

Somera Road Inc. of New York City released its interior renovation plans for Allentown’s Grand Plaza, a Class-A office building it bought in April that had been in foreclosure.

Built in 2002, the building, formerly known as PPL Plaza, is in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, a tax incentive that spurred more than $1 billion in construction and renovation in downtown Allentown.

Somera Road hired an architect to redesign the interior of Allentown’s Grand Plaza. Here is a view from the eighth floor. (Submitted) –

The company plans to update the interior design first and then rejuvenate the outdoor plaza space in front of the building next year.

“We are in full design mode, finalizing the architectural design,” said Basel Bataineh, vice president of Somera Road. “We haven’t selected a local contractor yet. We are looking forward to working with someone with experience working in the NIZ.”

Somera Road hired ESa, an architectural firm from Nashville, Tennessee, to do the interior renovations. He declined to disclose an estimated cost for the renovations.

Bataineh said the vast majority of the original design is timeless, with some modern features that some designers are putting into buildings today.

“We are really looking to breathe some new life into the building without changing the character,” Bataineh said.

The firm will make some changes to the lobby, upgrade existing office spaces and renovate the 22,000-square-foot-outdoor plaza space fronting Hamilton Street.

Bataineh said the firm wants to activate the space by adding green space, seating, and areas for events and food and beverage options in addition to live music and fitness programs for the downtown community.

“I do think it’s underutilized outside of more marquee events,” Bataineh said.

Having the outdoor space available is a rare amenity for an office building of this type, he added.

He expects to have the interior renovations complete by the first quarter of 2020 and the exterior finishes later.

Overall, Bataineh sees potential for the building to play a role in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Allentown.

“I think the building speaks for itself,” Bataineh said. “It’s in a downtown that has been absolutely transformed since the building was built.”

Downtown Allentown’s revitalization has been similar to the revitalizations of downtowns he has seen across the country, he added.

The building has four tenants – PPL, BB&T, Gold Credit Union, and Bon Appetite café, with more than 200,000 square feet of available space.

JLL is representing Somera Road in leasing the space.




Training program adds diversity to construction industry, changes lives

In the quest to get more workers for the construction industry, one local labor union established a pre-apprenticeship program geared specifically for women and are offering it for the first time in Allentown.

These three are heavily invested in helping women find careers in the construction industry. They are, from left, Francis Schlenner, instructor for the Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Committee of Philadelphia and Vicinity; Susan Schultz, council representative of the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters; and Layla Bibi, council representative of the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters. (Photo by Brian Pedersen) –

The Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters, which has a training center in Allentown, launched the program that teaches women the skills construction employers want from employees. The union covers seven states and has about 44,000 members.

Sisters in the Brotherhood is a free pre-apprenticeship program that offers women the skills they need to succeed in a construction career.

The Allentown training center on Vultee Street offers space for blueprint training, one-on-one classroom instruction and hands-on practice in similar real world construction settings that allow the students to train on lifts, install ceilings, and perform electrical work among other tasks.

“It’s a combination of training here and then work out in the field,” said Susan Schultz, council representative of the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters.

Welding is one of the in-demand skills, and something carpenters do a lot of on jobs, said Francis Schlenner, instructor for the Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Committee of Philadelphia and Vicinity.

The training center offers welding bays for students to practice the skill. In addition, it has aerial lift-operator-certification training and scaffold-erector-certification training.

“We start with the basics and work our way up,” Schlenner said.

The Allentown six-week pre-apprenticeship program had five women enrolled for its first year and four of them graduated Sept. 13. The next program starts Nov. 4.

Ultimately, one of the program’s key components is to help women find a life-long career in the field and join the carpenters union.

“We have high expectations with the idea we want to prepare them for a career in construction,” Schultz said. “We are looking for them to retire with us. It really is a commitment to increase the number of women in our union.”

The curriculum includes math, safety and hands-on strength-building exercises for commercial work in the industry.

For Layla Bibi, it was important to find people who looked like her and worked in the construction industry. It helped her to believe she could succeed in the field. Therefore, she decided to become one herself. She entered the construction field through the pre-apprenticeship program in New Jersey and now shares her experience with other women.

“I didn’t see many women involved,” she said. “It doesn’t really convince me unless I see someone, it just changes the view.”

Bibi, council representative of the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters, taught four classes in Edison, New Jersey, which were larger. The organization ran four each year, she said.

Having been through the program, Bibi could understand what it’s like for them to think, “Can I survive the pre-apprenticeship?”

Many people don’t understand the benefits, but also the hard work, she said.

“We’ve found women don’t realize the opportunities in the construction industry,” Schultz said. “It has to be a person who doesn’t mind working hard. We have a stringent screening process because we want them to be successful.”


Free program

The pre-apprenticeship program is free and the union provides each woman with a $50 stipend, which includes the cost of tools they get to keep.

Though the women essentially get paid to participate, the program consists of eight-hour days, five days a week, so they are making a commitment, Schultz added.

Schlenner said the union’s goal is to help the women not simply find a job, but a career.

“It’s very skilled, it’s hard work,” Schultz said. “That’s why the emphasis on training is so important. The amount of money we invest in our membership is what makes a big difference in the skill level.”

The union follows changes in the industry and adapts to new types of technology, updating its curriculum to address that so participants are training with equipment that’s used in the field.

“Technology is going to come no matter what,” Schlenner said. “We’d rather have them learn it.”

With the growth of hospital construction, the union has three mock-up rooms at its training center that mimic what it’s like to work in hospital settings and follow the proper safety precautions.

About five years ago, the union started implementing a program to get more women involved in the construction industry. Having decided a pre-apprenticeship program was the most effective way, it added new marketing materials and started doing outreach, Schultz said.

That outreach has been finding its way to women seeking careers in the industry.

One of the students, Ana Quiles of Bethlehem, said the union helped her a lot.

“I’ve actually been looking to get into the trade for a while,” Quiles said. “The free school, that helps out a lot.”

The math is hard, she said, but enjoys learning how to build things.

“I’m planning to go more into welding,” Quiles said. “You can expand the knowledge of what you are going to do.”

Keila Ramos of Allentown, another student, likes carpentry and the stability it offers.

“I love carpentry and anything and everything with carpentry,” she said. “The carpentry industry is something that’s not going anywhere. It’s stability.”

She has learned how to use different tools and, among other skills, learned how to install framing and drywall.

Running a pre-apprenticeship program such as this could cost anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000, Schultz said. She sees it as a program with far reaching effects, particularly for women seeking a career change, upward mobility and a well-paying job without student-loan debt.

“This program can transform someone’s life,” Schultz said. “It can change their kid’s life. It can change the structure of a community.”

Construction begins on $68M health care campus for LVHN

With all township approvals in place, Lehigh Valley Health Network is starting construction on its new health care campus off Route 33 in Lower Nazareth Township.

Construction is underway on a new campus for Lehigh Valley Health Network that would include a new cancer institute, medical office building and hospital off Route 33 in Lower Nazareth Township. (Submitted) –

The site along Hecktown Road will include a hospital, cancer institute and medical office building.

The campus has three planned buildings, which are a two-story 106,000-square-foot-hospital with 18 beds; a two-story 35,000-square-foot- cancer institute; and a large, two-story medical office building at 61,000 square-feet, said Rachel Lefebvre, vice president of operations at LVHN.

The project’s estimated construction costs are $68 million.

Lefebvre, who will oversee the campus once it’s built, said the network is building all of the buildings and services with the capability for expansion.

Workers have already begun soil movement and preparing for ground improvements, with traditional foundation work to begin in mid-November, she said.

The whole campus, including all three buildings, should be open and operational in summer 2021, she said.

“The expansion of these health services is in response to growing patient demand for services in Northampton County,” Lefebvre said. “We have two large health centers that are very close to the campus.”

Over the last seven years, LVHN has seen a 91 percent increase in the number of visits to Lehigh Valley Physician Group providers, she said. In fiscal year 2018, LVPG had more than 430,000 visits from Northampton County residents.

Rather than having more patients travel across town for care to go to a different LVHN center, the network wanted to put a campus closer to their homes, she added.

“We are providing local, accessible care,” Lefebvre said. “We are really focusing on convenience and access.”

The network plans to reveal a name for the 80-acre campus at its groundbreaking ceremony, set for November, she added.
Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Upper Macungie Township is the design-build firm working on the project, along with the architect, Erdman, based in Wisconsin.

James Pennington, chairman of the Lower Nazareth board of supervisors, said township officials are looking to collaborate with LVHN.

“I think from our perspective, it’s a welcome partner and use of the business in the township,” Pennington said. “We are looking forward to working with them over the years. This is a long, long term project for them.”

The township is installing a new community park off Newburg Road with about 90 acres of open space, walking trails and exercise stations, and potentially, the hospital network could partner with the township for this project, Pennington said.