- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

LONGVIEW, Texas (AP) - Fresh from being laid off at Trinity Rail Car Co., 25-year-old Chance Freeman needed a job to support his family of four plus one on the way and a dog.

His search led him to Workforce Solutions East Texas last month for a Dynamic Futures job fair for young adults, and it’s landed him in what he says is “basically a huge blessing.”

The Longview News-Journal (https://bit.ly/2aJzWWH ) reports Freeman and nine other people are in a pilot Young Adult Manufacturing/Construction Pre-Apprentice Course. It’s made possible through the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2014 and designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.

Over four weeks, participants learn to read blueprints and diagrams, how to become safety aware, about the principles, terminology and core values of manufacturing and construction industries, and more.

They’re getting paid 40 hours a week during their internships, and after a month, they’ve qualified for eight certifications showing their training in forklift and scissor-lift use, competent person/fall protection, ladder safety, basic CPR/first aid, fire extinguishers and lock out/tag out, plus manufacturing/construction training and Dynamic Futures Work Readiness.

“That takes you out of the big stack and into the small stack of applications as you get these certificates,” Freeman said.

The pre-apprenticeship course is made possible with involvement from several East Texas employers, including Eastman Chemical Co., Orgill, Stemco, AAON Coil and Closure Systems Inc. Other companies, such as Honeywell, Showa Best, 3M, Majestic Corp. and Air Gas, donated supplies and gear to assist in the training.

“It’s a joint effort in the community by Workforce Solutions, the employers and customers,” said Teri Tims, Workforce Investment and Opportunities Act youth program coordinator. “The employers are getting good, solid, well-trained employees coming in . that other entry level workers do not have coming into this industry.”

Freeman graduated among the top seven of his 107-member class at Tatum High School seven years ago, but said he didn’t make the most of a full-ride college scholarship. He worked at several places, from food service to industrial services and data calculation, but nothing compares to the in-depth training he’s getting through the pre-apprenticeship course.

“I now see things I wouldn’t have paid attention to,” Freeman said.

He’s most excited about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 30-hour construction industry outreach training he received this past week through Core 1 founder and instructor David Waters.

Over the next three weeks, Waters will train them on scaffolding, forklift driving, confined space requirements and more.

“He’s energetic, and keeps us on our toes. He cares about us, and he cares about safety. He takes this job seriously, and I’m just blessed to have him there,” Freeman said.

Twenty-four-year-old Shane Clark said he had never heard of Occupational Safety and Health Administration before the pre-apprenticeship. When he tells his friends about the course that’s training him for an industrial career, many of them hadn’t heard of it either, he said.

Clark moved to Longview last month from Grand Prairie, but he’s no stranger to East Texas. He left foster care at 18 and graduated from Azleway Charter School in Smith County. He attended Tyler Junior College but didn’t complete his degree plan and later bounced from job to job.

Last month, his father encouraged him to attend a talent show hosted by the city of Longview’s Partners in Prevention. Nakeisha Harris with Dynamic Futures was there handing out fliers about the pre-apprenticeship program, and Clark said he liked what he read and heard.

“These are just the basic keys to the simple things you can make a living off of,” said Clark, who had never worked an industrial-type job. “Even if I did finish (college), it probably wouldn’t help me out the way this course has.”

The training is a more than $5,000 value to each participant - from the $12.13-per-hour wage to the $3,100 value of the four-week soft skills and work readiness training. There’s also a drug screen and background check included.

Tims said it’s not settled when the next pre-apprenticeship program will begin, but there are plenty of available spots within the Dynamic Futures program.

“As far as I see, you can’t go wrong with being a part of this program,” Freeman said. “If it wasn’t for these people, we wouldn’t have this opportunity.”

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Information from: Longview News-Journal, https://www.news-journal.com

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