By Lindsey Salvatelli

Calvin Pitts and his wife, Danyel, stood with their backs to the windows lining the front of South Town Construction Training Center and faced their new students.

The students came to the center Dec. 17 for an orientation about the Pitts’ expectations of the incoming class and a basic rundown of the center’s 12- week curriculum.

Pitts also wanted to let students realize their potential, regardless of decisions they’ve made in the past.

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” Pitts said. “What you did cannot impact what you do; the best is yet to come. Are you with me?”

Pitts has been at the forefront of developing innovative ways to teach participants at his South Town Construction Training Center, 1122 S. Grand Ave E., skills they can use to make themselves more marketable to employers.

Students are given hands-on-training through a program that aims to give unskilled workers potential knowledge and real experience they’re able to apply while working on residential construction sites. Students are also taught resume building and attend a job fair.

The orientation was also a first for Pitts, too. While Pitts has held many training programs, it’s the first class Pitts held in collaboration with Ameren Illinois.

Erika Dominick, diversity and inclusion outreach manage of Ameren Illinois contractor Walker-Miller Energy, will also be working with South Town. Walker-Miller Energy is a female-owned energy company based in Detroit, but has been contracted by Ameren Illinois to work with minority organizations in the community and continue to diversify Ameren.

She said she’s positive everyone in the class will be successful and hopes the collaboration between South Town and Ameren becomes a permanent relationship. “We’re here to help you and be supportive in any way we can,” Dominick said to the class.

In addition to the class of nine, the training center’s newest addition to the team is Bruce Clark. Clark worked for the City of Springfield as a lineman for over 30 years and will serve as a new fixture in the classroom to help bridge the gap “between the outside of the house and the inside.” He has indirectly worked with South Town Training Center in the past by giving Pitts pointers on outside electrical wiring.

One of Clark’s goals is to get a transformer from CWLP’s Groth Street training facility so students gain some practical experience working with outside lines. He says safety is his top priority and wants to relay those concerns to the students, but it’s important they know electrical work inside and outside the house.

While Clark says safety is a concern for anyone working with electrical currents, the good news is, if students pay attention, they can catch on quickly. “Seems like a puzzle not put together, but as it goes along, it falls right on you,” Clark said.

The first official class of 2019 will be held Jan. 8.