In the last few months, the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, which offers masonry training to help Western Pennsylvania’s formerly incarcerated back into the workforce, made its first foray into entrepreneurship. Through its #OvCourse (previously called the #TIPizza Initiative), two top-performing graduates from the standard 10-week brick-laying courses, are chartering an oven construction business from scratch. “It’s pretty much the fastest track from a jail cell to a job in 70 days,” says Steve Shelton, the Institute’s founder. Together, Brian and Ronnell will learn how to grow a business and replicate their craftsmanship at scale. Eventually, they might have enough business to hire more ex-cons.
TIP, along with Carnegie Mellon’s Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS), is creating a scaled-down version of Shelton’s design. Approximately the size of a household grill, the oven is constructed with donated, recycled materials from demolished buildings. Joining architecture students (who lead design in the studio) and ex-cons (who handle installation in the field) together bridges a “huge chasm” between academia and the lived world, says John Folan, the architecture professor who heads UDBS.
Of the six ovens that have already been ordered, two will be sent to foster homes, where they’ll be used for fundraisers and cooking classes for the kids.
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