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A pathway to meaningful careers
The Pasadena/Altadena Apprenticeship Preparation Program offers a pathway to meaningful careers in the construction trades. The program helps steer young adults in high-risk circumstances away from gangs and street life by providing them with the information, experience and skills to successfully apply for union apprenticeships. Apprentices earn an hourly wage while they learn and receive full benefits. There are some 109 apprenticeship training programs in Los Angeles County, each focused on a specific construction trade. Upon completing the apprenticeship (two to five years, depending on the trade), an individual becomes a qualified journeyworker who can earn $60,000–$100,000+ a year in a construction career.
The program is a collaborative effort, designed and administered by Flintridge and supported by an alliance of community partners. After an outbreak of gang violence in Pasadena in 2007, City Councilmember Jacque Robinson, whose district was most affected, asked Flintridge to take the lead in developing employment opportunities for young adults as a way to get at the root causes of gang involvement. Flintridge subsequently formed a coalition of diverse stakeholders to address the lack of job and career prospects for low-income, unskilled young adults. Partners in the coalition include Pasadena City College Community Education Center (PCC/CEC), City of Pasadena departments, businesses, numerous unions and local nonprofit organizations that provide gang intervention and prevention programs. The first session of the Apprenticeship Preparation Program debuted in June 2008.
The free 240-hour course is offered three times a year with a choice of a daytime or evening class. Each class accommodates up to 25 students. The City of Pasadena furnishes classroom space at the Villa Parke Community and Jackie Robinson Centers. PCC/CEC provides the credentialed instructors. In addition to coordinating the program, Flintridge provides financial support for text books, journals, calculators, site visit transportation and case management services.
Potential candidates for the course are recruited by Flintridge's outreach coordinator, a graduate of the program and an apprentice in the Laborers' Union. In addition, local nonprofit organizations working on the front lines of gang intervention and prevention promote the classes as a positive alternative to gang life and an opportunity to get a career. The PCC/CEC instructors encourage a supportive team learning environment and provide the individual attention that many of these young adults never received in school.
The course curriculum includes construction math, experience with tools, basic job safety, and an introduction to blueprints and rigging. Employability skills such as resume writing, interview techniques and good work habits are covered. There are also presentations by contractors and union representatives, and field trips to apprenticeship training centers, construction sites and a LEED certified (green) building. The guest speakers and field trips inspire the students to see themselves succeeding as journeyworkers in the trades.
Construction industry needs skilled workers
The construction trades offer a viable means to achieve economic security. In these occupations, prior gang connections, tattoos or a criminal record are generally not employment barriers. Currently, the state faces an aging workforce and the loss of skilled workers due to retirement will open up opportunities for new hires.
Due to the growing demand for green buildings, which is creating new jobs and a need for workers trained in green construction techniques, Flintridge expanded the course curriculum to cover green building and sustainability concepts. By introducing the students to the green industry sector, the program responds to the city and state’s future workforce needs.
Students also receive case management services as part of the program. These services help them deal with life challenges that present stumbling blocks when applying for or completing a union apprenticeship. Since there is often a waiting period for the apprenticeship exams, the City of Pasadena’s First Source Local Hiring Program identifies interim job opportunities for the graduates at local construction projects. In addition, the Alta/Pasa Community Improvement Center offers graduates short-term employment and job placement services and helps sponsor them into union apprenticeship programs.
By providing access to career opportunities, Flintridge is helping to transform troubled lives into empowered and productive men and women. Time and again, the students express their deep gratitude for the new possibilities that the course has opened up for them. The pride and hope in their faces and those of their families at the class graduation is a moving testament to the program’s life-changing impact. In the words of a new graduate, “This program has opened my eyes to the opportunities out there and has given me a second chance."
Photos: Brian Biery