From “Dead-End Jobs” to a Thriving Career in Construction

“Hey Ms. Rebecca, how are you doing?” Sharif Byrd sits down with staff member Rebecca Orr at the Wilmington Job Corps Center in Delaware. Sharif graduated from the center in 2018. Today, he’s working in the construction industry. He graduated with several certifications in facilities maintenance and came to Wilmington Job Corps determined to succeed.

“I wanted something from this,” he explains, “so I could better myself in life, and I did.”

His former Job Corps instructor, Michael Lumpkin, saw great potential in Sharif.

“He was one who would follow instructions and get everything done on time.”

Sharif greatly appreciated Mr. Lumpkin for his support and training.

“He’s a good instructor. He taught me all the basics of electric, carpentry, pipe fitting.”

Michael always told his students…

“You want to finish up here, you want to finish strong here. And this is your first step. Your next step is going to an apprenticeship.”

And that’s exactly what Sharif did. He joined the Laborers Union for a two-year apprenticeship. He’s one year in. Sharif says if students do what it takes, Job Corps works.

“Look at me! I’ve lived in the “hood” all of my life and now that I’ve come here, it’s changed my life. Honestly, I call this place God’s second chance.”

Sharif gets paid about $20 an hour, and on some jobs, he gets double that amount.

“It’s very good money…You can make a living off of it, you can be comfortable. Honestly, I didn’t want to keep having to work at all these dead-end jobs because it’s pointless, you’re going to be stuck…Job Corps—it is a very important thing to every state because people need it.”