John Wardlaw, 39, isn't much of a gambler. Even so, he has decided to bet his future on advancing through the ranks of the building trades. He recently completed the superintendent career program through the carpenter's international training school in Las Vegas, a year-and-a-half long mentoring program that was paid entirely through his carpenter's union, Local 1006 out of Milltown.
John didn't start out with designs on a construction career. After two years attending Furman University in South Carolina, the Staten Island native came home to work construction for a non-union company that built solariums. One day in 1986, he stopped by the Local 20 carpenter's union to pay his grandfather's retirement dues, and they convinced him to stay a while. "They put me in a two-year apprenticeship program, and then I became a journeyman for eight years," explains John. "The company I was working for did doors and hardware and then worked into general contracting. That's when I started becoming a foreman. The longer I worked for them, the more they saw what I was capable of. You start running a small crew, working under a superintendent. I was always conscientious and wanted to do better than I was doing at the time. The apprenticeship program helps get you to the journeyman stage. Then you have to take it from there and have the initiative to give it a little extra. Some people are happy being a journeyman, and there's nothing wrong with that. But some people want a little bit more; more responsibilities, more pay."
John began to get smaller jobs to run, eventually becoming a full-time superintendent, which is the job he now holds at Clemens Construction in Westfield. He is currently overseeing the construction of a Wachovia Bank facility in Mount Olive where he juggles budgets, deadlines and schedules. "I'm responsible for getting the job done from start to finish," notes John. "You have to be conscientious, knowledgeable in multiple trades and ambitious." That drive and experience, coupled with his professional superintendent skills will help John continue to advance his career to the top of the trades.
"The general super has a lot of knowledge and experience in the trades, which comes with time," says John. "The union encourages training and it's all free to members. You can find any course you might need at the apprenticeship school. If you're weak in blueprint reading, even after you get your journeyman card, you can go back to school for an advanced course in building layout, for instance. Construction has provided a good living for myself and for my family." You never know where a visit to the union might take you.