Changing life's path: New program aims to train those in need, provide opportunities to grow

Posted: 11:57 AM, Oct 19, 2016
Updated: 2016-10-19 12:33:13-04

As the adage goes, “Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will eat for life.” That could be said for a new program that is helping those in difficult times learn the tools of the trades.

To help those who are wanting to better themselves, their family and their community, a new program aims to help those change their life’s path;. Consolidated Electrical Contractors teamed up with Greater Michigan Construction and the Homeless Angels to bring “Building Opportunities for People Program.

The goal of the program is to provide an opportunity for the homeless and those facing financial difficulties in the Greater Lansing-area to build their skill set to find employment opportunities in a field that seems to be dwindling.

“This is giving them the opportunity to get in the trades, which is getting tough to come by,” said Corey Hannahs, Vice President, Operations at Consolidated Electrical Contractors. “The high schools are not pushing it anymore…and it seems to have fallen off the radar. The whole industry is hurting, and this is also being able to build it up. There are a lot of wins.”

The program teaches the core curriculum, and the chapters, or modules, the students learn in the eight-week course is nationally accredited through the Greater Michigan Construction Academy.

Once the students complete the course, they will be able to move on to an apprenticeship to further their education, and path to a new career.

“Now that they have that, they are more enticing to employer,” said Hannahs. “It shows they are willing to put in the effort, and from there they can go into an apprenticeship program.”

Which is what one graduating student is hoping to do.

For some, learning a trade skill like electric, plumbing or carpentry doesn’t enter the mind when thinking of a career choice.

This was true for 29-year-old Ivery Jones.

Jones, who has a daughter who will be turning two in December, and his wife is expecting their second child the same month, worked as a sales associate and always thought of getting into the IT technical field.

“I really didn’t think I would go into the trades,” said Jones. I didn’t think it would be something that would interest me.”

Jones explained he always was interested in the IT field. Now, he not only has a new respect for trades, but is looking at ways to continue down that path thanks to the B.O.P. Program.

“With this class we have taken, it taught us how to wire an apartment building, put siding up and fixtures, how do do an air vent and lights and everything,” Jones said. “It’s pretty cool. I never thought I would ever be in a class like this, or even learn a trade that we learned about.”

Now, Jones will be graduating the program with four other mates, and he is looking at continuing with an apprenticeship in electrical work or plumbing.

This program has helped teach me a lot about what goes on in these fields, and how hard they work to keep a community looking good and running,” Jones said. “Creating buildings from the ground up, and the people putting in the extra time and effort. It takes away from their families, but it also helps provide for their families.”

Jones is hoping to continue to work in sales, and begin an apprenticeship to keep with finances, especially with his fourth child expected in December.

“I have a great family, and right now we need all the financing we can get,” Jones said. “This program is pretty amazing. It is great.”

On Thursday, the first graduating class of five students will receive their NCCER Core Certification at a graduation ceremony held at Grand River Park, where they will unveil a bench they crafted as part of one of the program’s projects.

The students were selected by the Lansing-based non-profit Homeless Angels, who chose candidates for the program who are at a point in their life where they are willing to, and able to, commit to the eight-week program.

With the first class ending, Hannahs explained that the second class is already in session with three students, and they are reaching out to other organizations to grow the reach the program has.

During the program, the students learn basic safety, introduction to construction math, hand tools, power tools, construction drawings, communication skills, employability skills and material handling.

“It’s all hands on,” Hannahs said. “It is based around the core curriculum, and every student regardless of electrician, plumber, welder, carpenter – they learn the basic construction skills needed before they begin their apprenticeship.”

With each module is a test, Hannahs explained, and once the student passes the test it is entered into their transcript, which is transferable and accredited.

“If they decide to go out of state, it will go where they go,” Hannahs said.