CINCINNATI — Armed with half a dozen paintbrushes, a handful of rollers and a few buckets of paint, a dozen residents with Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority hoped to brighten up their community space and employment outlook with a little hands-on training. 

The free course through Sherwin Williams has been a part of CMHA’s M.O.V.E. program since 2015, but with employers reporting the hiring pool for skilled workers getting smaller and smaller, trainers like Bill Allman said it’s only grown more important since the pandemic.  

What You Need To Know

  • Dozens of students enrolled in hands-on painting course

  • Employers are facing a shortage of skilled construction tradeworkers

  • Students learn safety and brush techniques and apply the lessons to brighten their community center

  • All students are public housing residents with CMHA

Across the construction market, Associated Builders and Contractors reported 2022 began with just 91% of the construction workforce the country saw before the early months of the pandemic.

“It’s critical in this marketplace,” Allman said. "Painting contractors are dying for help.”

After two one-week painting certification courses at CMHA’s Winton Terrace Apartments, Allman hopes new graduates like Cindy Shields can soon get to work.

Allman works with Shields to fold and unfold their drop cloth. (Spectrum News 1/Michelle Alfini)

Seeing a few friends and neighbors find a pathway to employment through the program, Shields signed up this fall in the hopes of helping herself and the community at large. 

“Not only do I want to do this as a career, but I would like to train our youth that’s out here, that’s lost and that’s wandering the streets, don’t have anything to do or places to go,” she said. “I plan on showing them the ropes and getting them to starting their own painting business.”

Cindy Shields puts her training to use. (Spectrum News 1/Michelle Alfini)

The first few days of the course were in the classroom, where Shields said she learned the basics of safety, applying an even coat of paint and how and when to apply touch-ups. The week ended with hands-on practice, giving the Winton Terrace community center a fresh coat of paint. 

“I did the blue doors yesterday and just to come back in and see them today, it’s like, ‘I did that’ ” Shields said, smiling. 

Allman said the subjects are intentional. He wants his students to be able to see the impact of their handwork in their own communities so they can take pride in their work. 

“That changes the spirit in the community,” he said. 

At the end of the course, Allman said the students attended a job fair that helped connect them with potential employers that could further their education on the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction painters make around $21 per hour in Ohio.

Shields said once her training is complete, she hopes to start her own painting contracting company called “She Paints,” with the goal of getting more women in the trade. 

“Look out for us women,” she said. “We’ll be getting our hands dirty. We’ll be matching the men out here.”

Women currently make up about 9% of construction painters.