In 2012 Community Action was awarded a two-year Youthbuild grant from the Department of Labor to support the Beloit Fresh Start program. The program was originated in 2006 and provides both academic and occupational training to young people aged 16-24. Since inception, the training was offered in construction trades, specifically home building. To date, 102 youth have completed the program; 6 homes have been constructed or rehabilitated and 81 youth received their high school diploma from the School District of Beloit.
The economic recession beginning in 2009 dealt a number of blows to Rock County; among those the closing of the GM plant in Janesville. A total of more than 8,000 jobs were lost in the County between 2008 and 2010 and the impact on the construction industry was harsh. Demand for construction jobs stalled. In order to ensure that we were able to convert the Fresh Start training opportunity into a meaningful employment transition and match the needs of our young people with the needs of employers, Community Action developed plans to modify our training curriculum.
Members who are interested in the construction trades can continue this tract, including earning their Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training (PACT) certification. The certification is a combination of workshop instruction to develop basic skills in all areas of residential construction, basic tool skill development and project based instruction on a housing rehab worksite. In addition, members of the class of 2012-13 can alternatively choose to pursue training and certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or may select training for receipt of a Customer Service/Business Skills certification. Community Action is partnering with Blackhawk Technical College to offer the new curriculum options.
The changes in the program are industry-driven and derived in part from analysis by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. EMSI data shows local trends in each industry and determines which occupations and industries will be growing and by how much between 2010 and 2018. The growth occupations available to Beloit Fresh Start participants in the Customer Service Pathway include medical secretaries, medical records and health information technicians, bill and account collectors, and executive secretaries and administrative assistants. The Healthcare Pathway features strong growth occupations as home health aides and personal care aides; the pathway also provides opportunities for career laddering, facilitating additional post-secondary training in a variety of healthcare occupations.
The changes have been embraced by the youth. Jeremy, a Customer Service Pathway student, will complete his certification by the end of March and is looking at colleges to attend. He notes, “Gaining the knowledge has given me more options.” Karon, a Heathcare Pathway student, thoroughly enjoys the program and is excited to obtain her certification to be a CNA. She is hoping to find a job quickly with the high demand in the area and obtain experience. She is looking forward to “helping other people.” Angela also chose the Healthcare Pathway and said it gives her “more chances to step forward.” She will be receiving her certification within two weeks and looks forward to applying as an ultrasound technician in the Fall of 2013. Chris, a Construction Pathway student, cannot say enough positive comments about the program. He states, “I love it. I get training in the trades.” He is looking forward to obtaining his PACT certification and plans to pursue a career in carpentry. He said the apprenticeship is “exciting.”
Gary Wagner, Fresh Start Manager, agrees that the curriculum diversification has created more opportunities for students and essentially is a “more focused” approach. He stresses, “Any student that takes advantage of the program stands to reap the benefits.” For more information about the Beloit Fresh Start program, contact Lynn Jones, Employment and Training Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 313-1310.