Team Finishing Trades Institute

In the Fall of 2019, ACE Greater Philadelphia welcomed a new all-female team to our mentoring family.  Team Finishing Trades Institute (FTI) is led by Stephanie Staub (Director of Marketing, Architectural Glass Institute; ACE Advisory Council), Erin O’Brien-Hofmann (FTI Commercial Paint Instructor; NAWIC Philadelphia Secretary), and Dennis McDonough (FTI Recruitment Coordinator).

The Finishing Trades Institute, located in Philadelphia, is the official training provider of District Council #21 Apprenticeships and the first stand-alone Building Trades Apprenticeship program in North America to be recognized by the Department of Labor (DOL), accredited with the Council of Occupational Education (COE), and Licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Licensed Schools (DOE).  Recognized as a leader and innovator in the apprenticeship world, FTI continues to develop with outside-the-box approaches to training, diversity, outreach, and professional development of staff.*

Students at the Finishing Trades Institute accrue zero debt as part of the Earn As You Learn model and currently have 100% job placement for those completing the programs.*

“In addition to our apprenticeship programs, we provide classes, lectures, continuing education, and safety training for professionals.  This facility is a living laboratory,” exclaimed Staub.

Featuring hands-on learning experiences, the seven-week ACE program, developed by O’Brien-Hoffmann and Staub, introduces female high school students to the applications of drywall, paint, wallpaper, and glazing.  The program also touches on interview skills essential to career development.

“Erin is a champion for women in construction.  She recognizes the importance of exposing young women to the viable career options within the finishing trades and worked diligently to organize this program,” explained Staub.

The wallcoverings session, taught by sought after trainer and retired wallpaper installer, Joseph Joniec, allowed the girls to experiment with two differing materials – fabric installations and wallpaper and glue.

“It’s fun being here – I like it,” proclaimed Brianna Barr, a student at St. Hubert High School for Girls as she worked to push fabric into tracks for a wallcovering application.  “Even though I might struggle at first, it’s satisfying when I finally get it!”

Her partner, Bianca Lopez, also from St. Hubert’s, nodded in agreement, “This is difficult and takes a lot of precision.”

Ashley Salguero, who attends Swenson Arts & Technology High School, remarked as she attempted to find the track’s groove, “This is kind of like playing hide and seek in the dark.  I liked the drywall session better because it felt more natural to me.  This program is introducing me to the trades and I think maybe I’ll be a carpenter.”

After moving on to learning how to apply wallpaper glue to the paper backing, the girls were impressed with how easy Joniec made it look but realized, when it was their turn to use the tools, the application is not easy at all.

“This is harder than it looks,” laughed Shauna Mather (St. Hubert’s), “The roller is heavy and awkward!”

The final step of the evening’s session was applying the freshly glued paper to the walls and learning how perfect seams are produced.  Smiling and laughing as they worked, the students were all able to complete the task to varying degrees of success.  One young woman persisted through a mistake until the installation met her own high standards.

When asked if she would return to the program if given the opportunity, she nodded and definitively stated, “I would definitely come back next year!”

*sourced from

Team FTI






Melissa Raffel
Author: Melissa Raffel