New Salvation Army program changing lives, helping shortage

A new local Salvation Army program is changing lives.

How much is an American worker worth? The Del Oro Division of the Salvation Army says it can produce a good one for about $2,500.

That's through a new program that's aiming to change lives and fill a construction worker shortage.

In the summer heat of a North Highlands Salvation Army warehouse, nine classmates in the inaugural Construction Training Program are learning the basics of electrical work this week.

Just a few days ago, Jerome McCoy had never done anything like this before.

"It's a new experience," he told ABC10 News during the hands-on portion of the class Wednesday. "And it's a dramatic change,"

That's because a year ago, McCoy had hit rock bottom.

"It was a struggle with substance abuse," he said.

McCoy became alienated from his kids and found his way last November to the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center, a six-month program where he got sober.

"If I can change, anyone can change," he said.

The Salvation Army then moved him to housing at the E. Claire Raley Transitional Living Center, where he now lives with two of his sons and has his other children back in his life, too.

"I would probably be dead if I didn't go to the Salvation Army, honestly," he said. "They saved my life."

Recovery, however, is more than just sobriety and housing. People need something to fuel and sustain a stable life, too.

Salvation Army Capt. Martin Ross said this new week-long, intensive Construction Training Program aims to graduate 40 students per year and place them in jobs with local contractors.

The program, including the housing, materials and other services that go with it, costs between $20,000 and $25,000 per quarter.

"A lot of times, people are looking for a return on investment, but what we're delivering right now is a return on changed lives," Ross said.

Students, who come from other Salvation Army programs or services, will receive boots, construction tools, OSHA certification and training from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Northern California, which is merit-based/non-union.

That's all at no cost to the participant.

"Then we're going to have a job fair to make sure that our contractors, they know that, hey, these people are available, they're trained, they're ready, they've got all their tools, they've got their OSHA10 cards and they're ready to work," Sergio Cortez said.

He's with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Northern California and is teaching these nine students the ins and outs of beginners' electrical work.

"Right now we start to see them do hands-on, with switches, plugs, three-ways, four-ways, panels," he explained. "It just really starts them on a whole path of changing their career, changing their lives."

The program is also filling a shortage of entry-level construction workers in Northern California.

"For the most part here at entry level, we can't find people to start. We can't find people to come in and to grow them and mold them into the next construction workforce," Cortez said.

"Coming from the ground up and then getting a chance in life to be a productive citizen in society, it's a big step," McCoy said.

Unlike the man he was while in addiction a year ago, his family says the man he is now is the real McCoy.

"I'm very thankful," he said.

The Salvation Army Del Oro Division does so much more than just the Red Kettle Campaign most people see and hear during the holiday season.

It also has homeless shelters, transitional housing, adult addiction rehabilitation services, disaster response and services for kids and families.

Also, joining the Construction Training Program under the umbrella of Workforce Development is a Culinary Arts Program, which kicked off in Sacramento in February. A similar culinary program has been helping Salvation Army clients in Lodi for a decade.

Ross said people who go through the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center have a 30 percent chance of avoiding addiction relapse, which is higher than the national average.

Add to that participation in one of the SA's workforce development programs, Ross said, and that likelihood of staying sober, "goes up to an 87, sometimes 90 percent success rate, and we've seen that through our culinary arts and now we're going to be seeing that with our construction training program."

He added that graduates from the Workforce Development programs make good workers.

"These men and women, they've gone through the filters. They've gone through triple filters. They're eager to work, they're mature, they're looking for a second chance," he said. "We can drug test, we can alcohol test. There's probably not a better employee out there for blue collar work, at least, and maybe some white collar work than the people who are graduating from our programs."

The SA is currently sponsoring the new Construction Training Program along with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Northern California, but Ross said he is looking for other entities - such as contractors, churches and businesses - to help pay for the program.

"It's really a good deal, for anybody who wants to invest," he said. "I mean, what, 10 outstanding potential people (per quarter/class) with skills to work in their companies, that are ready to show up to work and do a great job? I think it's a great investment."

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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