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Trainee Spotlights

Atlantic Center for Occupational Health and Safety (Atlantic Center) Trainee Spotlights

Developing a Strong Work Ethic

BuildingWorks Graduate

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J. Alvarado on job sites in the New York City area.
(Photos courtesy of Atlantic Center)

J. Alvarado completed BuildingWorks during 2015-2016 program year. Prior to joining the program, Alvarado was working at per diem or temporary jobs and had only worked six weeks in the year prior to starting the program having recently been incarcerated. He was earning less than $11,000 a year, was receiving SNAP benefits and living in public housing. Shortly after graduating BuildingWorks, he began the Carpenters apprenticeship program in March 2016 with a starting wage of $17.44 per hour. In September 2016, he reported that he was working 40 hours a week with overtime and his pay increased to $19.98 per hour. He later advanced to his second year in the apprenticeship and his hourly wage increased to $24 per hour. In 2017, it was estimated that Alvarado would earn a minimum of $50,000 within the next year, reflecting a significant increase in income for himself and his family.

Alvarado graduated the apprenticeship in 2019 and is currently a journeyman carpenter. During the program, Alvarado stated he learned and developed a strong work ethic. He said the Carpentry instructors taught him that if you do everything correct and work hard, eventually you will get more efficient, work faster and safer, and he has experienced this on the job.

Alavarado credits BuildingWorks for really preparing him for union work and life in general indicating that before he did the program it was tough for him to make it to work or anywhere for a 7:00 AM start. He has worked on many job sites throughout the New York City area including public housing buildings. He regularly visits BuildingWorks classes and speaks to students about his experiences. He also looks out other for BuildingWorks graduates on the job site.

Creating a Future with Benefits

BuildingWorks Graduate

“You get back whatever you put in,” Gomez said about the program. “Being in the union is a great career,” he said in a recent interview.

“You have plenty of benefits for you and your family, including a pension. You can create a future working in the union.”

H. Gomez enrolled in the BuildingWorks in 1996. He was 23 at the time and had recently immigrated from the Dominican Republic. He was still learning English and had no previous work history in the U.S. Shortly after completing the ECWTP, he started the Carpenters Apprenticeship joining the Millwright & Machinery Erectors Local 740 where he has been an active member for more than 20 years. Gomez graduated from the apprenticeship and became journeyman in 2001. He purchased his first home the same year and has since upgraded to a larger house. He has four children and one started attending college in 2017.

He is ten years away from retirement, and during his career has worked on the 911 Memorial, the flood gates near World Trade Center and the John F. Kennedy airport. Gomez claims that the program was a life-changing experience and still remembers what he learned from the courses that he took, including Confined Space, Lead Abatement, and others.

Creating a Financial Future

BuildingWorks Graduate

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A. Coleman (front) working on a job site. (Photo courtesy of Everett Kilgo, BuildingWorks program manager)

Before enrollment, Coleman was earning minimum wage, had unstable housing, and had been previously incarcerated. He completed BuildingWorks in 2014 and began the Carpenters Apprenticeship shortly after. He graduated the apprenticeship in 2018. Coleman is now a journeyman. He recently reported that he earns over $100,000, has purchased a home, paid for his child’s education. He stated that he is very confident about his financial future and indicated that he has investments in addition to retirement savings.

Building a Successful Career in Construction

BuildingWorks Graduate

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Photo of E. Dobbs.
(Photo courtesy of Atlantic Center)

E. Dobbs completed the BuildingWorks program in February 2013. Prior to the training he had been unemployed for more than a year. In his last job, he had been earning minimum wage. He was receiving unemployment insurance and living in a household receiving SNAP benefits. He started the Carpenters apprenticeship in May 2013 and in his first year earned a base pay of $18 per hour. Dobbs graduated the apprenticeship this past June. As a journeyman carpenter, he earns $54 per hour in base pay. Edward reported that he earns between $75,000 and $100,000 annually. He owns a car, has retirement savings and investments outside of his retirement plan. He has paid off loans and maintains a good credit score.

“BuildingWorks gave me a perfect head start and the mindset and habits needed to make it successfully in the construction field,” Dobbs said.”

Becoming a Journeyman

BuildingWorks Graduate

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Photo of J. Parrish.
(Photo courtesy of Atlantic Center)

J. Parrish was 23 at the time of enrollment and had limited work experience and an 11th grade education with a GED. He completed BuildingWorks program in 2006 and started the Carpenters Apprenticeship in 2007. He is currently a journeyman carpenter and as a foreman and is responsible for hiring and managing new workers on a site. He also serves as a shop steward for his local union, assuring that members are working in a safe environment. Parrish recently reported that he is always pleased to work with apprentices who completed BuildingWorks, stating that if they did this program, he knows he can count on them to be the best and most reliable workers.

Western Region Universities Consortium (WRUC) Trainee Spotlights

Providing for His Family

Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Ready to Work Program Graduate

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L. Pickett (left) poses with his graduation certificate after completing the Los Angeles Black Worker Center Ready to Work Boot Camp
(Photo courtesy of WRUC)

L. Pickett completed the Winter Ready to Work Boot Camp in March 2019 and is now working as an Industrial Painter with the Painter's Union. He came to the Los Angeles Black Worker Center with two goals: To provide for his family and to move his family into a new home. Larry had been living in hotels with his three children as a single parent for nearly three years.

Prior to enrolling into the Ready to Work pre-apprenticeship program, he felt hopeless and discouraged. He heard about the program from a friend and the two of them encouraged each other to complete the program, even arriving to class at least two hours early every day.

Since graduating the program, Pickett has been working with the Painter’s Union and has realized his goal of moving his family into a two-bedroom apartment. Pickett is incredibly grateful to the program offered by the BWC and the UCLA LOSH program.

"I feel like a man now,” Pickett said. “I can provide for my family. I would have never dreamt of this opportunity. Thank you, guys, so much."

Building Hope from Within

Portland Constructing Hope Graduate

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Photo of E. Watson
(Photo courtesy of Constructing Hope)

When E. Watson joined Constructing Hope in June 2017, she was struggling to find a life direction. “I was unemployed for four or five years,” Watson said. “I was dealing with addiction.”

Watson worked diligently and quickly progressed in her ten-week training course. After graduation, Constructing Hope supported Watson in preparing for interviews and gaining employment.

“They set up a mock interview where someone from the trade that you’re interested in comes down to interview you,” Watson said. “They give feedback on what you could brush up on and what to add to your portfolio. In my case, the interview was with Michael Burch of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters Local No. 1503 and Mike Hawes, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute. Even though it was supposed to be a mock interview, they immediately set my application process in motion. Two weeks later, I was apprenticing through the Carpenters Institute. I started as a first term exterior interior systems apprentice earning $18.46 per hour.”

When asked what makes Constructing Hope effective, Watson emphasized the importance of relationships. “The most important thing was the relationships that I formed with the staff and the amount of support they gave me,” she said. “I could tell them anything and they never looked down or judged me. You can tell the people are there because they care, and they want to see their community succeed. They want to see you stay out of jail, stay off drugs, better your life, and better your family’s life. They would do anything within their power to help me succeed.”

Re-entering the Workforce, Helping with Fire Crews

Compass Rose Collaborative, Re-entry Program Trainees

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R. Sanchez picking up his work gear. (Photo courtesy of WRUC and Compass Rose Collaborative)

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C. Emerson pictured at multiple job sites. (Photos courtesy of WRUC and Compass Rose Collaborative).

R. Sanchez completed his safety pre-apprenticeship MC3 training, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10, CPR, Forklift, and 40-hour HAZWOPER in March 2019. Sanchez attended the Woolsey Fire crew orientation hosted by the Compass Rose Collaborative in April 2019. He was selected for the fire crew and started work on May 1, 2019.

In 2019, Compass Rose Collaborative received a call from alumni trainee C. Emerson’s parole agent who stated that Emerson was not doing so well. He was advised to call Mr. Romero from the Compass Rose Collaborative before he got into trouble. The program reconnected with Emerson in August 2019 and within three days go him hired to help with the Malibu Fires. Emerson completed his fire assignment after seven months of working at the Malibu Fires. He was determined and enrolled in the Carpenters Union Apprentice program. In February 2020, Emerson completed the Carpenters Local 213 Apprenticeship Training and is currently working for the union as of March 2.

“I appreciate you Mr. Romero,” Emerson said. “You’ve had a big positive impact on my life. I will not forget you and what you do for us.”

CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training Trainee Spotlights

Grateful for New Opportunities

East Palo Alto, JobTrain, Project Build Graduate

Chavez at Stanford University jobsite. (Photo courtesy of Steve Surtees, CPWR)

Chavez at Stanford University jobsite. (Photo courtesy of Steve Surtees, CPWR)

J. Chavez is a 36-year-old single Hispanic father who was living in a shelter with his two children in East Palo Alto, California. Chavez came to JobTrain seeking employment opportunities as well as services for both him and his children. He worked with JobTrain’s Supportive Service Center to get a housing voucher for his family and enrolled in the Project Build program. He was also able to receive legal counseling and advocacy for CalFresh benefits during his breaks while attending training. He excelled in class and graduated in February 2019. As one of the top five students in the class, Chavez was automatically chosen for direct entry into the Carpenters Union. He is now employed with CECO Concrete Construction as a carpenter apprentice building concrete forms for the construction of a new medical building at Stanford University and is earning $29 an hour. He is grateful for the opportunity given through the Project Build program.

Grateful for Safety Training

St. Paul ECWTP Graduate

T. Sturdivant (left), business agent for OPCMIA Local 633, pictured with Abe Hassan, former coordinator for the St. Paul ECWTP. (Photo courtesy of Steve Surtees, CPWR)

T. Sturdivant (left), business agent for OPCMIA Local 633, pictured with Abe Hassan, former coordinator for the St. Paul ECWTP. (Photo courtesy of Steve Surtees, CPWR)

In 2007, T. Sturdivant was 31, unemployed, and had a family including two small children to support. He had no vocational experience and found it challenging to obtain consistent, meaningful work.

One day, Sturdivant came across a flyer for a construction training program at a local workforce center. Intrigued, he enrolled in the 12-week program. Sturdivant recalled that the program was intimidating at first, but he believes it helped him prepare for the safety aspects of construction and what to expect on an actual job site.

Upon completion of the program, Sturdivant entered the apprenticeship program with the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association (OPCMIA) Local Union 633, where he later became a journeyman. Today, he serves as a business agent for OPCMIA Local Union 633 with duties such as organizing and serving as a liaison between members and contractors. He now serves on a variety of state, industry, and contractor association committees and gives back to the next generation of trainees by sharing his story with each pre-apprentice cohort at Local 633.

Sturdivant said he does not know where he would be right now if not for the ECWTP. He said it was life-changing, providing him with an opportunity to pursue a sustainable and meaningful career in the construction industry. His pride in the program was clear as he named the various projects he was involved in building in and around the Twin Cities. “I’m grateful for the career this program gave me but the safety training is what keeps you in the career,” he said.

Making Water Safe

Flint ECWTP Graduate

Jones reports on his group’s site characterization exercise. (Photo courtesy of Howard Hipes, CPWR).

Jones reports on his group’s site characterization exercise. (Photo courtesy of Howard Hipes, CPWR)

Jones (third from left) and GST Michigan Works receive Michigan Works! Annual Impact Award. (Photo courtesy of CPWR)

Jones (third from left) and GST Michigan Works receive Michigan Works! Annual Impact Award. (Photo courtesy of CPWR)

When A. Jones learned the drinking water in his home contained high levels of lead and the impact it was having on his children and his community, he went into action. The Gulf War veteran began volunteering alongside the Michigan National Guard, where he was introduced to GST Michigan Works and the Environmental Career Worker Training Program. Today, Jones is a training graduate and member of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 370. He has been an apprentice for two different contractors involved in the water remediation in Flint. For one, he removed and replaced lead water lines to Flint residents’ homes; for the other, he worked on the construction of the new Genesee County Water Treatment Plant. “The best part about all of this is that I was invited by my 8-year-old son to visit his classroom, where he presented me with an award,” said Jones. “It says ‘Thanks Dad, for making our water safe.’ That’s what means the most to me.” In 2017, Jones and GST Michigan Works received statewide recognition as they were awarded the Michigan Works! Impact Award.

Representing Women in Trades

Flint ECWTP Graduate

Williams working on her first refractory job. (Photo courtesy of CPWR)

Williams working on her first refractory job. (Photo courtesy of CPWR)

E. Williams graduated from the Flint ECWTP in 2016. A single, parent, Williams entered a refractory bricklayer apprenticeship program in September 2016 with the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 2 Michigan (BAC Local 2). Her first day on the job, she was lining a tower with refractory brick, and the second day she was in a man-lift 150 feet in the air keying in an arch with refractory brick in the dome. Because of her training and great work ethic and attitude, the company paid her journeyperson scale and she was working seven days a week, 10 hours per day, even though it is strenuous, challenging work.

: Flint ECWTP graduates Emily Williams, Shanell Tiggs, and Lanae Bell (left to right) in action at the WIST Women Build event.

Flint ECWTP graduates Emily Williams, Shanell Tiggs, and Lanae Bell (left to right) in action at the WIST Women Build event. (Photo courtesy of Steve Surtees, CPWR)

“I am a bricklayer,” Williams said. “I make a difference. If it wasn’t for the training at ECWTP and effort put in by all of the training coordinators, I wouldn’t be where I’ve always wanted to be today. I don’t have a job – instead I have a career. I can say I’m certified and experienced to go on a job site and do what I was trained to do. If not that, then better. I know safety hazards. Chemicals, slips, trips, falls, confined spaces, oxygen levels, air hazards, how to lay the perfect brick, and how to carry myself as a trades woman.” Today, Williams is working as a refractory bricklayer and confined space supervisor, thanks in large part to her ECWTP training. She was able to relocate her family in Flint to better housing and purchase a reliable vehicle.

Notably, Williams was selected by BAC Local 2 to attend the Women Build Nations Conference (WBNC) as a Michigan BAC representative. The conference was held October 2018 in Seattle, Washington. Williams joined 1,900 other craftswomen from across the U.S. and Canada. The WBNC is an invaluable opportunity for women members to meet with other women already in the trades and those who are interested in joining.

Program attendees had the opportunity to lay brick to build the brick WIST sign. (Photo courtesy of Steve Surtees, CPWR)

Program attendees had the opportunity to lay brick to build the brick WIST sign. (Photo courtesy of Steve Surtees, CPWR)

Additionally, Williams volunteered to participate in the production of a video developed to educate women on the careers available within the unionized construction industry. The video was produced by the Association of General Contractors of Michigan and the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Apprenticeship & Training Fund.

Three female graduates from the Flint ECWTP, including Williams, were selected to represent the Michigan BAC in the September 2018 “Women Build: Exploring Careers in Construction” event held in Perry, Michigan which was organized by the Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) organization. Beside Williams, Shanell Tiggs (BAC Bricklayer Apprentice from 2017-2018 cohort) and Lanae Bell (BAC Restoration Apprentice from 2017-2018 cohort) served as panelists as well as mentored participants in a hands-on bricklaying project.

Obtaining a Career in Health and Safety

New Orleans ECWTP Graduate

Smith pictured getting equipment ready.

Smith pictured getting equipment ready.

I. Smith had a history of chronic under-employment. She came to the ECWTP with previous scaffolding experience and was interested in learning more about safety. She expressed concerns with being laid off from a previous scaffolding job, after reporting unsafe working conditions to a supervisor. She later graduated the program, admitting this was a big personal achievement. In 2019, she was placed in a job as a safety officer with JCL Safety, making $25 an hour. Smith said the ECWTP empowered her with the skills she needed to do this job. More recently, she was hired by Total Safety, a leading global provider in industrial safety services and equipment strategies, which has 176 locations nationwide. Today, Smith is a project manager at Total Safety making $28 an hour with benefits. This position gives her the opportunity to travel around the country with a team of experts, who provide clients with project management for gas detection, confined space entry, fall protection, and emergency response.

The Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization Trainee Spotlights

Helping the Community with Health

Make the Road New York (MRNY) Community Health Worker Graduate

Coyotl pictured getting equipment ready.

Photo of R. Coyotl (Photo courtesy of Maiber Solarte, Make the Road New York)

R. Coyoltl decided to pursue a career in health. First, she took the Bridge to Health Career Course and gained confidence in her English skills. Throughout the CHW training, she learned the importance of teaching communities the importance of good health and healthy lifestyles. Coyoltl completed an internship at MRNY doing outreach and referral services in Queens, New York. She is proud to know that she is helping her community while pursuing her professional goals. This training has helped boost her self-confidence and taught her how to talk to people about their wellbeing and access to healthcare.

A Second Chance

MRNY Community Health Worker Graduate

Isufi pictured getting equipment ready.

Photo of Q. Isufi (Photo courtesy of Maiber Solarte, Make the Road New York)

Q. Isufi worked as a social worker in Kosovo before immigrating to New York City. MRNY has been a way to get back into the healthcare sector. “When I heard about the Community Health Worker training at Make the Road New York, I knew that this would be an opportunity for me to apply my knowledge and experience and to get back into the workforce,” Isufi said.

The course helped her understand the role of community health workers in different areas. “I also enjoyed sharing experiences with people from many different cultural backgrounds and learning from each other, “Isufi said. “I had never before been exposed to such a diverse group and that was really enriching to me.”

Through the training program, Isufi was able to obtain an internship at Nino de la Caridad, one of the Healthfirst Preferred Provider Organizations in the Bronx. She conducted research on community resources for patients and provides healthcare workshops on breast cancer prevention. A few weeks into her internship she found a full-time job at BronxWorks, a community-based organization that assists individuals and families in the Bronx, where Isufi also lives.

Isufi is now a case manager in the HomeBase program, which focuses on homelessness and shelter prevention. She helps people who just got out of the shelter system apply for support services and resources to maintain a stable household. “The training was a great opportunity to combine my experience and learn new things about health and services,” she said. “I look forward to build a career as a community health worker.”

Mentorship and Support to Success

MRNY Community Health Worker Graduate

N. Sumi is currently working in the Culturally Responsive Collaborative of Queens (CRCQ) Program at South Asian Council for Social Services in New York. Sumi said the training received helped her gain an understanding of the public health system in the U.S. and provided the skills needed to work as a community health worker.

She joined the CRCQ in July 2018 and is working as a case manager supporting low-income South Asian immigrants with legal and social problems in Queens. She said the CHW training sparked her interest in the issues that affect this population and the support they need.

Sumi assesses clients’ needs and provides information, support and referrals needed to obtain services, and holds one-on-ones to mentor clients and connect them with other services, including the Community Health Advocate at the South Asian Council for Social Services.

Prior to the training, Sumi was unemployed. Now she is earning $38,000 a year plus benefits. She said the training provided her with an excellent opportunity to enter the health field as a community health worker and to grow and do the work that she is happiest with.

Giving Back to the Community

MRNY Community Health Worker Graduate

F. Tipantasig was a student at MRNY from 2017 to 2018. For several years, she worried about how to help her children with school and how to help support her family since she did not know the language. Tipantasig decided to make changes to reach those goals.

When her children were born, she stopped working full-time, found a part-time job and during the day she attended English classes and got her GED. Later, she realized that as an immigrant mother, without professional experience, there were many obstacles to overcome.

Tipantasig wanted to take a training to get a better job, but unfortunately money was an issue. One day, she went to her nephew’s Head Start and saw a flyer for Make the Road NY’s Bridge and Community Health Worker classes. The program was looking for people interested in Community Health Worker training, and those who completed the training would receive help finding a job. She said the best part was that it was free.

Tipantasig was looking to better her English skills and was accepted to the Bridge to Health. After graduating, she took the Community Health Worker training.

She said she couldn’t believe it then, but now, she sees everything has changed due to the amazing training that Make the Road NY offers for communities, especially those in disadvantaged areas.

Before the training, Tipantasig was earning money by delivering newspapers working 20 hours a week and earning $10 per hour and no benefits. She was then hired to work in her community as a family worker at ACE Head Start. She continued growing by helping families to find resources and community services, such as those offered by Make the Road NY. She is earning $13 per hour, working 37 hours with benefits. She said through the training received, she was well prepared to strengthen the community’s knowledge to overcome a variety of challenges.

“Thank you for supporting our community with this amazing training I really appreciate it.” Today, Tipantasig is a new union worker.

Student Becomes Teacher

MRNY Community Health Worker Graduate

M. Villalba, a graduate of the first MRNY Community Health Worker cohort, joined the organization to provide additional support in the classroom. Villalba and Program Lead Maiber Solarte co-facilitate most of the training sessions. Villalba also assists with job placement support to past participants.

Villalba and Solarte had the opportunity to attend a peer leader training on Chronic Disease and Diabetes Self-Management provided by Health First in January 2020. Self-Management Model Programs are workshops for adults with diabetes or any chronic condition that focus on medication adherence, physical activity, healthy eating, and coping techniques. Their training will help them lead a similar course for MRNY.

Opportunity, Advancement, and Innovation in Workforce Development (OAI, Inc.) Trainee Spotlights

Representing Women in the Solar Industry

Chicago ECWTP Graduate

Prior to the training, C. Myers reported her insecurity about returning to the classroom as an adult and balancing the demands of attending training while caring for her three children as a single mother. Despite her doubts, Myers ended up earning the overall highest test scores in her training class. She expressed gratitude for her peers and the OAI staff for pushing and believing in her even when she found it difficult to believe in herself.

Myers is an example that perseverance and hard work will always pay dividends. She gained a newfound sense of confidence and drive during the program and obtained employment in the solar industry prior to graduation. She began her new career with Re- Think Solar and within 12 weeks, her wages increased from minimum wage to $18 per hour. Myers is one of a few women working in the solar industry and can be found proudly wearing her pink hard hat on solar worksites. Myers lives in Illinois Congressional District 7.

Hard Work Pays Off

Chicago ECWTP Graduate

T. McCarter carefully considered his options after serving 14 long years in a correctional facility in downstate Illinois. He chose OAI to gain knowledge and increase his skills and chances of employment. McCarter’s hard work during training paid off. After graduating and attending an OAI Employer’s Forum, he received three job offers, one of which was with UPS. McCarter accepted the UPS offer, and within 60 days of being employed with the company, he was promoted to a supervisor position with a starting annual salary of $60,000 plus benefits. “OAI is not just a school for training, but a family and organization that really helps people,” McCarter said.

Securing Success with Work and Financial Planning

Dallas ECWTP Graduate

V. Brown spent 25 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. Upon his release, he returned to Dallas and acquired employment with a landscaping company in Carrollton, Texas. The job paid minimum wage. Brown’s commute was a challenge because he worked the 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM shift. One day, while heading to work on the bus, he met C. Hill, a previous Dallas ECWTP graduate who told him about CitySquare’s construction training program.

Brown contacted CitySquare to receive additional information about the training. He made the difficult decision to quit his job and enrolled into the ECWT-Dallas Commercial Construction training program in fall of 2016. In February of 2017, Brown was offered a construction job with WEBBER, the General Contractor for the SM Wright Highway Construction Project in southern Dallas. He started work as a laborer earning $12.00 per hour.

Brown developed a personal financial plan with help and encouragement from the Dallas ECWTP’s financial empowerment coach. The plan included obtaining a driver’s license and filing his 2016 federal income tax. Both goals were quickly completed. These relatively simple accomplishments made his work more secure and contributed to his feelings of empowerment and inclusion. Brown often expresses how thankful he is for the encouragement he received during the program, as well as post- graduation. This encouragement helped him recognize that he was angry, hopeless, and discouraged prior to and in the beginning of the training because of his prior trials and tribulations. He is very excited about his career path with one of the largest infrastructure companies in Texas and is now learning everything that he can for further advancement.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Consortium (HBCUC) Trainee Spotlights

Gaining Employment, Responding to COVID-19

New Orleans ECWTP Graduate

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Photo of J. Kelly (Photo courtesy of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice)

J. Kelly is a remarkable 25-year-old young man. He was bound for success. He played high school football and ran track at Southern University New Orleans. Life threw him some curves and as a result he fell upon hard times. Kelly did not graduate from college and meaningful employment was not to be had. He learned about the ECWTP from a previous graduate and decided to apply. Kelly was determined to complete the program and he demonstrated that nothing would stand in his way, not even homelessness. He actually lived in his fiancé’s automobile until his old coach from the university gave him a key to the gym so he could wash-up and get some sleep. Kelly’s attendance was good though he was late sometimes. He did very well in his classes and obtained all certifications.

Kelly received the Survivor Award at the virtual graduation. Because of his determination and hard work, he was one of the first graduates to obtain employment. He accepted a permanent position with Battelle CCDS in Columbus as a COVID-19 Response PPE Decontaminator. They use a Critical Care Decontamination SystemTM to address the current shortage of critical personal protective equipment across the U.S. Kelly is now earning $25 dollars an hour with full benefits. He along with his fiancé and baby have a wonderful new start in life. Kelly credits the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice along with staff, instructors, and counselors for supporting and preparing him to obtain this wonderful opportunity.

Opportunities to Move Forward in Life

New Orleans ECWTP Graduate

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Photo of E. Riley (Photo courtesy of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice)

E. Riley is a perfect example of fortitude and resilience. Seven months before testing and interviews for the 2019-2020 cycle of the ECWTP, Riley stopped by the office to get information about the program. He was disappointed to learn that we had just completed a training program and that it would be December before the interview, enrollment, and training process would start again. Riley was then informed of the date and time for the December testing.

In December, Eugene arrived 45 minutes early anxious to get started! He passed the entrance exam, filled out the application, and was interviewed. During the interview process, Riley revealed he was incarcerated for the past 25 years and a returning citizen for about nine months. While incarcerated, he obtained his GED and later an associate degree in business management. However, he said it had been extremely difficult to get work.

Riley was accepted into the ECWTP and that’s when things turned around for him. He arrived for class 30-40 minutes early for the entire 12 weeks. He earned the Perfect Attendance Award at the virtual graduation with a monetary value of over $700. He did very well in basic skills and technical training.

Shortly after graduation, a job opportunity opened up for Riley at Camellia Bean Company working on the assembly line with a starting pay of $13.00 per hour. The good thing about his job is that it is a permanent position with full benefits after 90 days and opportunities for advancement. Riley is thrilled to have an opportunity to move forward with his life. He said he is thankful for the Deep South Center for giving him a chance for a new lease on life. The ECWTP is exactly what he needed and he is grateful for the leadership and support he received throughout the program and after.

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