A new journeyman finds construction to be rewarding and a rush
When Adrian Quinonez graduated from Northglenn High School, he wanted to be an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. But officers need bachelor’s degrees, and after two years at Front Range Community College, Adrian lost his sense of direction. “I didn’t like school,” he said, “and I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career.”
Working in construction while attending college, he decided to continue, following in the footsteps of his father, a talented and highly skilled carpenter at Milender White.
“The guys call me, ‘Junior,’” he sighed.
Earning his bona fides as an apprentice
He also decided to enter the Construction Industry Training Council of Colorado’s (CITC) carpentry apprenticeship program offered in partnership with Emily Griffith. The program, which took four years, required 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 576 hours of classroom instruction. During his training, he studied construction math, learned how to decipher plans and elevations, learned concrete work, safety protocols, rigging, framing, finishing and team leadership, while also seeing large commercial projects through from groundbreaking to customer sign off.
It’s not for the faint of heart or body. Like Adrian tells young people on his crews, “It’s like my dad said to me, ‘If you want to stay in construction, you need to know it’s going to be hot and it’s going to be cold and you’re going to have to shovel snow to get something done. If you’re in it, then you have to perform at work.”
In July, Adrian graduated as a journeyman carpenter and was promoted to foreman at Milender White, a step up from his previous position as lead carpenter, a role he grew during his apprenticeship. His new job gave him a pay raise and additional responsibility supervising a larger construction crew of men and women.
“I’m proud of my work,” he said. “I was one of the top apprentices in my class in carpentry. “You need to take pride in your work to feel good about yourself and the end product.”
Meeting workforce needs
Skilled tradespeople like Adrian are in high demand. According to the Associated General Contractors of America’s 2020 Construction Outlook Survey, 72 percent of general contractors expected labor shortages to be their biggest hurdle in 2021 and 81 percent of construction firms have problems filling positions.
“We’re begging people to come to work in construction,” Adrian explained. As the economy has opened up, people are opting for jobs that pay similar rates and aren’t as physically demanding and exposed to the elements as construction. “It’s hard to find good workers and pay them what they want.”
For Adrian, 26, who is married with four children, construction offers respectable pay, overtime, the opportunity to see his work come to life and the kind of intensity he imagines he might have experienced in the military.
“Construction can feel like the military,” he said. “The stuff we do, we work hard and work strong, and we’re working side by side, and we’re sweating and bleeding together to get things done.”
Like service personnel, construction workers are also taking enormous risks, working on giant pieces of equipment, climbing scaffolding or working 16-stories high on cranes, harnessed but no guard rail.
Whether he’s walking on the top beam of a building, driving a forklift or installing windows, for Adrian, it beats the heck out of working in an office. “You’re doing all these scary and impossible things in construction,” he said. “You can get a wonderful adrenalin rush like in recreational sports, and then there’s the push to get something done quickly and safely so other people can come in and get the building done. I’d go crazy working in an office.”