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Opportunity youth learn high-value skills in construction trades

July 24, 2018
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San Diego Community College District

Students in the San Diego Gateway to College and Career (SDG2CC) program are working with contractors in electrical, carpentry and plumbing to learn valuable, hands-on experience that will lead to living wage jobs in San Diego with the potential of earning $25 per hour. 

Rose Foster poses in her construction gear

Rose Foster

The partnership is between San Diego Continuing Education’s (SDCE’s) SDG2CC program and the Southern California Youth Alliance and provides a paid internship that prepares students to enter and succeed in the construction industry.

Regional Labor Market Assessment for San Diego County prepared by Centers of Excellence predicts a 7% growth for construction occupations by 2020, which translates to 1,152 annual job openings and median hourly earnings of $25.60.

“The construction trades are in urgent need of qualified apprentices so we are creating a win-win for our students and the industry,” said Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., SDCE’s President.

The current job site for the SDG2CC student interns is an 18-unit apartment building being constructed on 53rd Street, south of El Cajon Boulevard. As the construction project continues, students will work on heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; finished carpentry projects; stucco application, and installations of floors and windows.

“Students arrive ready to learn and work every day,” said Laurie Coskey, SDG2CC Program Director. Coskey credits the partnership between SDCE, the San Diego Youth Alliance and the San Diego Workforce Partnership for bringing students and job opportunities together in a way that strengthens chances of employment.

The internship program provides valuable hands-on paid work experience using industry tools on an actual job site. Training allows students to explore a career in a specific area (e.g. construction) and because SDG2CC has resources to provide industry-related tools and gear, case management and job search, students have increased chances for continued advancement following the internship.

“Buying the equipment would be prohibitive for the students,” said Coskey. “Plus these interns have completed OSHA and CPR trainings now so they are ready to move ahead.”

The internship itself, and the opportunity to be paid during the work experience, are significant benefits to SDG2CC students; however, students often have obstacles to face before they begin in an internship program.

Lakenya Rose Foster explains the SDG2CC internship program is helping her envision a long-term career for her and her 2-year-old son.

“As an African-American female interested in carpentry, I feel empowered” she says. “There are only 1 percent of women in the trades as it is.”

Foster has helped put in decks on the third floor of the building; is learning about different measurements of wood; and now understands details such as using correct and different screws when installing metal to drywall, metal to metal and metal to wood.

“I have my mind made up that this will be the next four years of my life,” said the 23-year-old. “After graduation I will join the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters where I will complete my Journeyman License and my Associate Degree.”

Faculty Della Cole, is working in the classroom on math and reading comprehension as well as high school completion or equivalency to remove these additional barriers students would face when trying to enter into employment.

Students also benefit from support and individual case management. This became urgent the day Foster lost her childcare assistance from the county and her SDG2CC case worker was able to resolve the issue and resume the childcare within 24 hours so she could continue the internship.

“Growing up in foster care I came across a lot of people who were just doing their job. You can tell it's not like that here,” she said. “I joined SDG2CC for the internship and a chance I’ve been waiting for.”

Foster has also gained stable transportation and stable housing security since enrolling in SDG2CC.

SDG2CC will host a graduation for the internship students from 10 to 11 a.m. August 4 at SDCE’s Cesar Chavez Campus (1901 Main St., San Diego). 

Community organizations, religious organizations, and businesses can meet social responsibility goals by sharing ideas and resources that help SDG2CC provide meaningful curriculum and employment opportunities for students. Individual donations to provide ongoing critical support for opportunity youth can also be made directly to SDG2CC. Contact the Program’s Executive Director, Laurie Coskey, Ed.D. at LCoskey@sdccd.edu.

San Diego Gateway to College and Career (SDG2CC)

San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) serves opportunity youth in San Diego through SDG2CC.

Opportunity youth are between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working. These men and women represent a social and economic opportunity to communities because many are eager to complete education and obtain employment. According to data available in the San Diego Youth Development Office, there are over 53,000 opportunity youth living in San Diego County.

Gateway to College is a national network that supports communities in building sustainable pathways for disconnected youth. The Gateway model began at Portland Community College and is now successfully implemented in more than 40+ community college settings throughout the nation. SDG2CC at SDCE is the first model in San Diego and is in its second year of operation.

Youth Alliance Apprentice Program

An apprenticeship is one of the oldest and most traditional methods of passing on career training skills from a seasoned expert to an eager student. Learning hands-on from industry professionals working on a job site, combined with expert faculty with technical knowledge, leads student down to a direct pathway from a classroom to a career with a living wage.

Paid internship experience is the first step toward this style of hands-on training that meets the needs of diverse students who have different styles for learning, and diverse industries that require different combinations of technical skills to be successful on the job.

Typically consisting of multifamily housing projects, the pilot Youth Alliance Apprentice Program is modeled after the highly successful YouthBuild program administered by H.U.D. This program is designed to provide education, mentoring and extended training opportunities for numerous trades in the construction industry.

A United States Presidential Executive Order explains expanding apprenticeships in the United States. “Expanding apprenticeships and reforming ineffective education and workforce development programs will help address these issues, enabling more Americans to obtain relevant skills and high-paying jobs. Apprenticeships provide paid, relevant workplace experiences and opportunities to develop skills that employers value. Additionally, they provide affordable paths to good jobs and, ultimately, careers.”

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