Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hammers, Nails, Solar Panels: the journey to a new career starts here

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Guest Post by Allysha Sneed

On Saturday, June 7, Robert Lancaster, along with 18 other students walked across the stage to receive certificates of completion from Catholic Charities Pre-Apprenticeship Green Construction Program. He wore a bright blue cap and gown and walked in to Pomp & Circumstance playing for the assembled family and friends.

For Robert, the moment represented another step in his journey to a full-time career. He had been unable to find a steady job for months, despite having his HVAC and plumbing certifications. His goal was to become a certified general electrician, but he needed a start. The Green Construction Program provided that opportunity.

For more than 10 years, the program has provided intense 12-week training classes to equip students with the fundamentals of starting a career in construction. Taught by bilingual teachers and offering a 15:1 student to teacher ratio, the program sees 70 percent of its graduates either gain employment or pursue further education from each class in the first month after graduation.

Robert, with tools, ready to work.
Celia Sterling, the program administrator, credits the success of the program to both the teachers and her students for their dedication to starting a new career. Several years ago, the program expanded its curriculum to incorporate more environmentally sustainable practices in an effort to stay competitive in the job market. Students now learn solar panel installation, weatherization techniques and more to help buildings minimize their energy usage.

Through a partnership with Montgomery College students are able to attend hands on workshops including a 20-hour electricity training course and a 14-hour job readiness course, “Communication Skills and Fit Relationships.” The soft skills of succeeding in a modern workplace can be just as valuable to the students as some of the hard knowledge they obtain.

Just two weeks after graduation Robert had the opportunity to see how prepared he was for the workforce. He landed a four-month internship with Mona Hill Contracts where he now works with a team of electricians.

“The class really helped me in the workforce because it taught me the core skills needed to be successful in the construction business,” Robert said. “Now that I’m on the job, I am able to see how those skills correlate between trades. I’m really glad I came to the program, it really taught me a lot.”