PITTSBURG -- Angel Greer always had an interest in working construction.

"I love being outdoors. I love power tools," Greer said Tuesday during a Gatorade and power bar break she and 26 other Future Build students took from replacing a deck that had fallen into disrepair in front of an office building at the Small World amusement park.

Now in its third year, the free pre-apprenticeship program teaches hands-on learning in construction, maintenance, green building and photovoltaics (also known as solar power) to low-income residents who live in East Contra Costa.

"This is something I can learn and the solar caught my attention,'' said Greer, 28, of Antioch, on what prompted her to sign up.

As in the past two years, students enrolled in Future Build do a community service project. This time, the beneficiary is Small World.

In addition to replacing the deck in front of the amusement park's office, students will replace rotted wood on the USS Posco and install a new tower on a lighthouse before Small World opens on April 6 for its 2013 season.

The four-month course, which ends April 30, also provides classroom instruction. But for now doing repairs at Small World has turned the place into a real-word classroom between 8 a.m. and noon for the rest of the month while the students, wearing brightly colored Future Build shirts, hone their skills.


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The program receives funding and support from the Pittsburg Power Co., the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County, the Northern California Laborers Training Center and the Contra Costa Building and Construction Council.

When the program first started in 2011, it was geared to 18- to 24-year-olds, said Merl Craft, project manager for Future Build. This year, the age limit was lifted in recognition that many older people are out of work and could benefit from learning construction skills.

"There was a need in the county," Craft said.

Just ask Camilo Capistrano, a 55-year-old Pittsburg resident who signed up for the course after he was laid-off from his job as a cashier at a Lucky's grocery store in Antioch in 2011.

"This is a change for me," he said. "Maybe I can find a better job. It's an opportunity for me to learn some skills about carpentry, painting, construction and electricity."

Morris Carey is a Pittsburg resident and nationally recognized expert on home building and renovation who volunteers his time to teach the students.

"They're amazing. They're very bright and very well coordinated and most of all willing to learn and willing to work," Carey said.

To date, 34 students have graduated from the program. Of those, 70 percent have qualified for apprenticeship programs with local unions in Contra Costa County, another 15 percent have obtained construction jobs, and 15 percent have signed up for additional training through courses offered at Diablo Valley College and Los Medanos College.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.