May 11, 2016
By Mary Grzebieniak
Gillece Services, a Bridgeville, regional repair service which employs more than 100, is one of the employers who regularly recruits from New Castle School of Trades.
They also work with 32 other trade schools in the region, looking for graduates who would be quality employees.
Owner Tom Gillece said he wishes he could find more workers trained in the trades and especially more women. In fact, he has 11 technician jobs open right now in plumbing, heating/air conditioning and electrical fields. The company, which Gillece founded in 1980, offers plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, waterproofing and water filtration services.
Electrician Tiffany Chitzer, 29, is the company’s only woman out of about 80 Gillece technicians who cover seven counties in Western Pennsylvania. She said that customers never expect to see a woman when they call for an electrician.
“Every day when I walk in the door, people are surprised,” she said.
“But once the shock wears off, they’re okay with it.”
She said that some customers “have their guard up,” adding that “once they see that I know what I am doing, they are fine.”
For Tiffany, becoming an electrician was a natural thing, as she had several uncles and cousins in the field. Maybe as a sort of foreshadowing, they dressed her up in electrician’s gear for Halloween when she was two years old.
Her training began at Laurel Highlands High School, which had a strong technology curriculum. Her first employer hired her right after she graduated and she received on the job training. Tiffany is now in her 11th year working as an electrician. Trades are a part of her personal life, also. Tiffany is married to a union bricklayer and her best female friend is a welder.
Dave Despot, recruitment director for Gillece, said there is a growing need for workers in the trades. He said that jobs at his company can offer wage and job security that many four-year college degrees cannot. A technician in training might make $14 to $16 hourly at entry level and this can grow to $20 to $40 later. He said that over the next ten years, 60 percent of current technicians in the trades will be retiring. At the same tine, school enrollments are down, meaning, he said, that “as the demand is increasing, the supply is decreasing.”
Women can help fill that gap, Despot said, adding that it is “a major mission” of his at Gillece to recruit and hire more women.
Gillece said the concentration on academic education is one problem contributing to the shortage of trained technicians.. “High school teachers talk about going to college. But they don’t talk much about the trades.”
He said that the company looks for those who love what they do and have a knack for dealing with people.
In any case, he said, new people, both men and women, are desperately needed in the trades.
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