WILKINSBURG (KDKA) — A basement room at Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg has been transformed into a trade school workshop.

Ten men, most of whom are on work release from a halfway house, are learning the trade of bricklaying.

Steve Shelton, owner of Shelton Masonry and Contracting, founded the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh nearly four years ago. Shelton says there’s a real need for the trade they are learning.

“Most of the guys that I have that are really talented are between 45 and 55 years old,” he says. “And I was thinking about where the next generation of good young craftsmen were coming from. I just decided one day that I was going to take some of these young guys off the street and teach them what the old timers had taught me.”

Masonry teacher Eric Foust is the only full-time paid employee. The 10-week course is free, but those who don’t work, don’t last.

“It does take speed to keep up when you’re actually doing it,” says student Stanley Upshaw. “But he wants us to learn to get it right first.”

Fellow student Thomas Greco agrees. “The project that I’m doing, seeing it before and seeing it after, I mean, it builds your pride.”

There’s no cement in the mortar, which is re-used every day. Students spend seven hours a day building walls. The next day, they tear them down, and build them back up again. And each day, the wall looks just a little bit better.

Founder Steve Shelton takes no salary, cobbling together grants and his own savings to keep the trade school going. He explains why he does it.

“When one of these guys gets done building a wall, and they stand back and look at it, I see hope.”

Trade Institute of Pittsburgh