Jose Powell has moved up from a Level II drywall apprentice to a Level V apprentice since we followed him for a day last year, a graduation that puts him a few notches closer to becoming a full-fledged drywall journeyman.

Powell was the subject of last September’s People at Work installment. He was 19 then — is 20 now — and has just completed coursework last week to achieve the Level V status, he said when I caught him on the phone yesterday afternoon. That gives him some certifications for driving a tractor, operating an aerial lift and using some other tools and technique, he said.

And it gives him a raise. He made $12.47 an hour when we met him where he was working at the Hard Rock Hotel last year. Now he’s making $21.68 an hour, he said. Apprentices pass through eight levels before becoming a journeyman. Powell said he thinks he has another year before that happens. He’d told me for the story last year he was thinking about going to college to become a nurse. But when I asked him yesterday whether he’d stick it out to become a journeyman, he sounded confident: “Oh, yeah,” he told me.

Since last September, Powell finished up the Hard Rock and has worked on projects at UCSD, including a student center and the music building, and the Rincon casino. Powell’s still living with Danny Castro, his supervisor at Standard Drywall Inc. Castro’s son is one of Powell’s best friends.

And, Powell said, he bought his first new car this year — a “black pearl” 2008 Ford Escape.


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