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Cementing successful futures

ON THE JOB — Jennifer Long, a business agent with the Operative Plasterers’ and Concrete Masons’ International Association Local 926 Area 39, has helped carpentry students pour concrete at the Bloomingdale facility for the past three years and is one of few women in the field. However, she is seeing an uptick in interest among females and said she enjoys teaching future tradespeople since more workers are greatly needed. (Contributed photo)

BLOOMINGDALE — When the carpentry program at Jefferson County Joint Vocational School needs a little help with a concrete project, officials call upon on Jennifer Long.

Long, who serves as business agent for the Operative Plasterers’ and Concrete Masons’ International Association Local 926 Area 39 in Shadyside, has regularly assisted the program while students learned the trade at the Bloomingdale facility. For the past three years, she has been on hand as they added new sidewalks around the building and said she enjoys teaching potential tradespeople at the school.

She became involved through her association with carpentry instructor Steve Orwick and has helped guide students through the process.

“I knew Steve Orwick from years ago and my son, Andy, was a teacher and is now assistant principal there. I heard they were pouring concrete there and Steve said he knew me and asked if I wanted to help them,” she recalled. “I’ve tried to help students learn a little about it. I love to try to teach them because I think it’s a work of art. I love working with the kids, and anytime I can teach somebody I’ll do it.”

Orwick praised Long for her help, adding that it is rare to see a woman in the trade.

“She takes time from her own schedule and come out here. She does fantastic work with the students,” he said. “She is more than willing to instruct the kids and takes time to discuss work and life skills.”

But for Long, hard work is nothing new and she has been performing the task for three decades.

“I’ve poured concrete for 30 years,” she said. “I looked for a job, saw this in the paper and gave it a try. I ended up liking it.”

At one point, she was ready to retire but went on to become the business agent two years ago. Now her job is to coordinate worksites with contractors for the estimated 110 union employees. She is only one of a handful of female workers in the field but counts herself fortunate to have worked with great male colleagues through the years. Long once counted her own sister and niece as co-workers and is seeing increased interest among women.

“I was one of three or four in the district,” she noted.

Long added that her work with the JVS students has led to a few apprenticeships and even more interest from future workforce members.

“We had two students who worked with our union and three current students approached me about apprenticeships, plus one who wanted to get in,” she continued. “I think it’s picking up, and we need more young people involved.”

She noted the great pay and benefits, including health and pension plans, and the apprenticeship program begins earning wages around $19 per hour, plus they receive a 5-percent pay increase for every 500 hours worked or spent in the classroom. For information, contact Long at (304) 312-9128.

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