Howard Young is unabashedly in love with all things electrical and has been that way as long as he can remember.
“I loved fixing things,” Young, a 35-year-old Bronx resident, recalls. “My grandmother would always tell me, ‘Baby, fix my TV, or fix the light, or fix the antenna.’”
Young didn’t excel in high school, though he did graduate. While he was there, however, he did some electrical work and knew he had found his calling. He wasn’t entirely sure how to pursue a career in his chosen profession, but then his brother, who was working with cellular towers, helped him land a job in wireless construction and, as Young says, “I started seeing more doors open.”
Cell tower work, while interesting and lucrative, also required a lot of travel. That was hard on Young, because he was on the road for about eight years of his son’s early life. Born in Flatbush, but raised in the South, Young was based in Florida and doing a lot of back and forth to New York in order to see his family, which wasn’t optimal.
Young says he came back to the Empire State for good when he was about 30 and went through a tough transition. He was living in a shelter when he met a woman he calls “an angel in disguise” who pointed him to Building Skills.
Having experienced other job placement programs, Young was skeptical at first, but says that he found that Building Skills was different.
“I felt like they were actually caring about what was on your mind,” he says. “They wanted to know what goals I was trying to achieve, and I felt comfortable with them. I told them, ‘You’re not wasting your time with me. I’m here to try to build myself up and find a career.”
The connection proved fortuitous. In 2019, Building Skills helped Young find his first construction job in New York as a laborer, which, in turn, enabled him to move into his own apartment. Better still, he says, he was able to stay in the state with his family.
Young says something else set Building Skills apart – the fact that Glenn Hilzen, the organization’s Business Services Manager, went out of his way to make sure that Young was not only showing up for work on time, but had everything he needed to succeed.
“Glenn is calling me at 6 a.m., asking if I made it to work and if I needed anything,” Young recalls. “He always called. I appreciated that a lot, that someone would actually take the time out of their workday for me.”
It was Hilzen who told Young about the joint training program that Building Skills was preparing to launch in partnership with Bronx Community College, which would enable him to further hone his electrical skills. Young jumped at the chance.
“When I was working electrical, there was a person telling me, ‘Go do this,’ and I didn’t have the terminology to explain what I was doing,” Young says. “Now I’m working on becoming an independent worker instead of somebody telling me how to do it. We’re doing theory now. I find it exciting.”
Like all participants in the BSNY/BCC training program, Young is working full time while also attending classes. He recently started a job with Glo Electric, which he says he was able to land by employing both advice from Hilzen and some of the terminology he learned from his BCC instructor during the interview.
“It felt so good,” Young says of the experience, “and Building Skills had a lot to do with it.”