February 6, 2020
Baltimore, MD – This is Keith. He is one of nine students enrolled in Living Classrooms’ new pilot program that is training unemployed and underemployed workers for opportunities within the construction industry. The Pre-Apprenticeship Program uses industry-recognized curriculum and is being taught by an industry veteran. Living Classrooms staff will work with its employment partners to help connect graduates to employment opportunities after successful completion of the program.
Keith was referred to this program by his case manager through Living Classrooms’ Project SERVE re-entry program. Like the other students, he is hoping that this course will give him the knowledge and skills needed to land a position in a four-year apprenticeship program and a full-time job at a partner company where he can learn on the job.
Now 50 years old, Keith has spent most of his life rotating in and out of prison. Upon his latest release, he became committed to staying clean, getting a job, and becoming a productive member of society – but he needed help. After enrolling in a substance abuse treatment program and Project SERVE, he is now building a foundation for success and embarking on a path towards realizing his goals.
The students of the Pre-Apprenticeship Program, who fall within a broad range of age and experience, are learning the fundamentals of the trade such as applied math, reading blueprints, using power tools, and material handling through a mix of classroom and hands-on instruction. In addition to the skills of the trade, the program offers certifications in CPR and OSHA, both requirements of any full-time apprentice program, which will surely give students an advantage when interviewing for a position. Another requirement of most construction positions is a valid driver’s license, something that can be a common employment barrier for city residents who tend to rely on public transportation. Such students, like Keith, have been referred to a partner driving school where they are working on obtaining a license in tandem with their course instruction.
“Since I’ve been in Living Classrooms, I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity that’s presented itself. I’m lining everything up, getting certifications, my driver’s license, saving my money, so I can get a car, get an apartment, and live my life,” said Keith. “You gotta put in your 50% and they put in theirs, you can’t just sit around and expect things to drop in your lap, you gotta take advantage of opportunities when they arise.”
Other potential barriers like housing, childcare, addiction, and transportation are remediated by a case manager who support the students’ success throughout the duration of the program and for at least one year after they have been placed in employment. Case managers also help build job-readiness, resume, and interview skills so graduates are prepared for the next step after leaving the program. This case management model has been found by Living Classrooms to be essential to long-term success both for the worker and employer.
The 8-week pilot is currently wrapping up with a graduation ceremony that will honor the students’ hard work on Monday, February 10th. The students have already been set up with interviews and will each receive assistance with job placement upon exiting the program. A new cohort of students is currently being planned for this spring.
The Pre-Apprenticeship Program is one of several job training programs offered through our Workforce Development Center that operates out of our UA House at Fayette community center in the Baltimore Target Investment Zone. The goal is to create opportunities for unemployed and underemployed adults who want to work and help mitigate any barriers that might be keeping them from reaching their career goals.
“If I didn’t have this [opportunity] I probably wouldn’t have any income, I would probably be out there selling drugs or who knows what else to try and get some money in my pocket. So, I’m grateful for the opportunity to keep myself out of prison,” said Keith. “I’m very grateful.”
Staff writer, Living Classrooms Foundation