Grads of KnoxWorxs Construction Class Enter the Workforce

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
News item

Grads of KnoxWorxs Construction Class Enter the Workforce

Posted: 12/19/2016
KnoxWorx GradsThe graduates didn’t wear caps and gowns, or walk to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, but they were no less excited to collect their certificates and launch their careers. 

On Thursday, December 15, the 10 graduates of the KnoxWorx Construction Cohort class celebrated their accomplishments in a room packed with friends and family at the Knoxville Leadership Foundation (KLF) office in the former Regas building.

“Life is about making the right choices, and you’ve made a great choice,” KnoxWorx Director Tim Waldo said to the students who sat in the front row. 

The 16-week program, supported in part by a City of Knoxville Community Development Block Grant, is open to 18-24 year old men and women who qualify as low-income city residents. Participants receive Home Builders Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT). Most students are either recommended by their guidance counselors, receive assistance via other KLF programs like Amachi Knoxville (a mentoring program for young adults who have one or more parents incarcerated), or through KLF collaborator Targeted Community Crime Reduction Program (TCCRP) managed in the Mayor’s Community Relations department. 

“Some young people grow up with the expectation that secondary education is out of reach,” says KLF Director of Housing Adam Montgomery. That includes Ashandre Stewart, 19, who studied some engineering and drafting at Austin-East and South Doyle high schools but didn’t anticipate going to college. Now he’s pursuing a career in masonry. 

“There were times I thought I might quit,” he says. 

His mother, Shalanda Moore, chimes in. “I’m really proud of him sticking with the program and being there every day.” 

Instructor Matt Livesay says that before students even begin hands-on lessons in carpentry, construction math, tools, and materials, they meet prospective bosses. “They see that there are local employers who are interested in hiring them,” he says. “It sends a powerful message.”

At the ceremony, Livesay presented an overview of what the students did in three months, including build six wheelchair ramps and three porches, paint a house, and replace a roof. A slideshow with a soundtrack of triumphant classical music documented the students’ accomplishments. 

The re-shingling project was a make-or-break moment for more than one student, including 23-year-old Tarik Dixon, who says he eventually got over his fear of heights. “You see everybody else do it, and they’re OK,” he says. He was further emboldened by the safety rules taught early on. Watch your balance. Hand, don’t throw, tools to your team members. Watch out for cords. Be smart. 

Dixon, 23, graduated from Austin-East in 2011 and tried a year of college as a Spanish language major. His mother saw information about the construction certification class on Facebook and shared it with him. He had an interest in construction but no experience. When classes ended on a Friday, Dixon had a job as an electrician’s apprentice on Monday. 

“You learn something new every day,” he says. “When that happens, you start to think about where you are and where you’re going to be in the future.” 

The next construction class will begin in January.  To register or get more information, contact Mike at 865-524-2774. 

Photo caption: Ashandre Stewart, center, shakes hands with instructor Matt Livesay as fellow graduates (from left) Trevon Cates, Darlressa Clemons, and Tarik Dixon look on.