Trainee carpenters build tiny bookcases for children in Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) — “For me, being a young woman, I just think it was unheard of,” Layla Bibi said. “But somewhere along the way, I was going to find my way and work in construction.”

Bibi was right. For the past 16 years, the West Philadelphia native has done what no one in her family has done. She is currently a Council Representative for the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Carpenters Council.

Today, she entered the Carpenters’ Joint Apprentice Training Center in Philadelphia and vicinity. There, she was happy to see a diverse class of trainees get a head start she never had.

“Nothing like this was available, which is why the CARP program is so important to me,” Bibi said. “Giving people the chance to come here and learn as you go is a wonderful opportunity.”

It’s the work of the Carpenters’ Apprentice Ready Program, or “CARP” for short. Launched in 2016, the training regiment gives Philadelphians with no experience and no connection to the Carpenters’ Union a chance to start a career.

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the horizon, the students were given a special mission on the day of their service.

“Today, we’re building mobile library drop boxes for recreation centers and parks across the city,” said Robert Landy, director of training for the Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Committee. “And this bookcase will give a child a book they might not have had.”

The project is a collaboration between the General Building Contractors Association and CARP members. They will soon be holding a book drive and later setting up each library in its designated location this spring.

Among today’s builders was Drake Warren, 40, who chose to follow in his brother’s footsteps when he changed careers.

“In the other job I was in, there wasn’t a lot of career advancement,” he said. “With carpenters, your rate is constantly going up and there’s a lot of work.”

As a pre-apprentice, Warren enjoys working at the Wells Fargo Center laying out the basketball court for the Philadelphia 76ers. He has high hopes for the future.

“This course here is 12 weeks, then hopefully I will pass the test and start my learning,” he said. “You go from apprentice to journeyman, and so on, and then some come back as teachers.”

Currently, admissions are no longer being accepted for the winter session of CARP. To learn more about the program and receive updates on the upcoming application period, visit their website.

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