Alejandro Corcino, 30, loves his work as a concrete laborer, so much so that he wishes he’d gotten into it straight out of high school. Instead, he found out about the job, and the Cement and Concrete Workers, District Council 16 Apprenticeship Program, in 2015. “A friend who was in the union told me about it the night before registration,” Corcino says. “I was waiting outside the door at 10 p.m. – and I waited until the doors opened at 8 a.m. It was cold.”
Only the first 300 people on the line got an application; there are sometimes 400-450 hopefuls. Corcino was one of the lucky ones. He attended two days of orientation, had a one-on-one interview on the third day, and then came back for an agility test, where applicants handle the type of materials they’re expected to work with on a daily basis. He was selected to participate in the program and he was on the job working less than a month later.
The program Corcino attended is a two-year program that requires 4000 work hours and 300 classroom hours to pass. He just recently graduated. The work of a concrete laborer, which includes pouring and chopping concrete – often on a hanging scaffold on buildings over 1000 feet high – requires strength, nerves, and an attention to detail, all working together. For example, when patch pouring for window installers, making sure the window will fit correctly.
“We are the muscle on the job, on building construction,” says District Council 16 Training Director Paul Primiano.
Previously, Corcino worked three part-time jobs, including in Fire Protection Services for residential and commercial construction sites. As a younger man, he’d worked in the family business of flea markets in major markets in the Tri-State area such as Aqueduct. His father, who has worked in Sanitation for 10 years, but still has the business on the side, taught him his work ethic and the value of providing for a family. And, says Corcino, “I’ve always been an athletic and physical person. To get a career like this, is like someone who plays basketball in the park ending up in the NBA.”
Corcino’s appreciation shows in his dedication. Primiano cites his perfect attendance, willingness to stay for overtime, and “never say no” attitude as just some of the reasons Corcino has won the LaborPress’ Outstanding Apprentice nomination.
“All the foremen spoke very highly of him – he got great reviews,” Primiano adds. Not only that, but when a company called the union in a bind, looking for someone with a license to be on a suspended scaffold to do some work for a couple of days, Corcino, who has the license, “made it happen,” managing to provide his services even though he was currently on a job. He was valued highly enough where he was working that he was allowed to take the time to help out.
“It was totally selfless – a great example of giving back to the program,” Primiano says. “You have to be an exceptional individual because of how hard the work is. We’ve been called the Navy Seals of construction sites – no one ever sees us, but in the heat waves, and the coldest days of the year –we’re there.”