Breaking the Chains of Poverty


A career training program administered by the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s Pittsburgh Chapter and facilitated in partnership with United Steelworkers. The goal is to promote living wage jobs and union membership for the minority community. In 2011, 82 people were trained, 75% completed the program, and 58% obtained employment.

Our mission is to provide social and economic progress for minorities, the poor and working people. In partnerships with the labor movement and other allies, we provide community-based training programs to individuals to educate, to improve their employment opportunities, and to secure good union jobs that make family-sustaining wages.

Demographic data from the 2010 Census indicates that more has to be done to support African Americans and low-income communities. Without education, workforce training, decent employment, and livable wages, many individuals do not have the opportunity to escape from poverty, own their own homes, or adequately support their families.

Our program equips those who are traditionally disenfranchised or discouraged from participation with a new sense of democracy, education and opportunities. Our goal is to create self-sufficient individuals and families.

The United Steelworkers partnered with the Pittsburgh APRI Education Fund and began the Breaking the Chains of Poverty (BTCP) program in 2009. This program has successfully served more than 170 individuals and has placed 62% of those individuals in jobs.

Our graduates acquire state-of-the-art training, tools, and theory used by the building and construction industry. They also have a competitive edge because our training specializes in environmentally sustainable practices. The skills obtained in the program are in high demand and are transferable to many industries. The core program consists of approved training modules that are industry driven and constantly enhanced by bringing new employers to the table. Our graduates enjoy career placement assistance and networking opportunities.

To be considered for the program you:

      • Must be at least 18 years of age;
      • High school diploma or GED;
      • Must be drug free;
      • A valid driver’s license is preferred;
      • Must be or become a registered voter;
      • To qualify, you must take the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) and demonstrate a 10th grade level of reading, writing and math; and
      • You must successfully complete and pass the panel interview.

The program  focuses on key topics in building, construction and energy-related industries such as:

      • Environmental Literacy
      • Water, Waste and Energy
      • Building and Construction
      • Health, Food and Agriculture
      • Community Organization and Leadership
      • Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship
      • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
      • Green Chemistry and Carbon Footprint
      • Tools, Instruments and Measures
      • Building and Construction Math
      • Hazardous Waste Operations and
      • Emergency Response

A stipend will be provided for students who meet the program expectations to assist them with basic life needs. We are also in a partnership with multiple community-based organizations that offer assistance to individuals with specific barriers.

Graduates will receive the following four certifications that are recognized and preferred by our employer partners:


      • NIEHS OSHA-30 Hr. Con.
      • Mold Remediation
      • Roots of Success

Some of our employers have included:

          • Carpenters Union Local 142
          • Cement Masons Local 526
          • Construction Junction
          • GPX Environmental
          • Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh
          • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
          • Jackson Clark Partners
          • Lennox National Account Services
          • Mount Washington CDC
          • Pennsylvania Transformer Technology, Inc.
          • Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
          • PJ Dick, Inc.
          • RWIV Construction
          • Wind Stax™ Wind Power Systems
          • United Steelworkers

Entry Requirements:

          • Partner or alumni referral.
          • Participate in a panel interview.
          • Pass a drug and alcohol screen.
          • Meet academic requirements.
          • Ability to obtain Driver’s License.


          • Only one late permitted during the first 15 days of training.
          • Must comply with dress, grooming, and behavior standards.
          • Maintain positive ratings on weekly evaluations.

Training Program
(Includes weekly stipend)

      • Education
        • Academic support in reading and math.
        • Computer instruction.
      • Job Readiness and Placement
        • Resume preparation.
        • Interview techniques.
        • Job search and the Green Economy.
      • Life Skills
        • Conflict resolution.
        • Time management.
        • Financial literacy.
        • Human and worker rights.
      • Technical Training
        • Hazard Waste Operation and Emergency Response.
        • OSHA 30.
        • Mold Remediation.
        • Carbon Footprint.
        • Weatherization and Energy Auditing.
        • Green chemistry, health, environment and communities.