CSCC’s Partnership with The Refuge Changes Lives
Before he enrolled in Cleveland State Community College’s welding boot camp, Joshua Brooks had never even watched a welder at work. But two weeks after the five day boot camp at the college, Brooks was employed with Miller Industries bringing home almost $800 a week not counting his overtime pay.
“When I started the boot camp, I didn’t even know how to turn the thing on, but the instructor walked us through everything—helping us every step of the way,” stated Brooks.
Brooks is one of many students who took advantage of the Career Connection program, a partnership between CSCC and the non-profit organization, The Refuge. The Career Connection is a week-long workshop that allows participants to learn different computer programs and other soft skills such as how to prepare a resume and interview skills.
“We at The Refuge greatly value our partnership with CSCC OneSource,” stated Kelli Kyle, Chief Operations Officer, The Refuge. “Their part in our Career Connection program gives the training and hard skills certification to our students that really enhances their ability to obtain a living wage job. Our whole goal is to get them to that sustainable living situation so that they can pay bills, have food, support their children, and create a financially stress free life for their family. With OneSource's partnership and training this becomes a possibility, opportunity, and hope for our students and their families… together we do so much more, and we truly make change in these families lives, a possibility.”
Since the program began in 2015, there have been approximately 70 students graduate from the Career Connection program. There have recently been a few enhancements to ensure students receive the best training possible. For the soft skills portion, they have extended the training one more day, so students will receive five days of intensive training. The Refuge has also partnered with the UT Extension Center to add a financial simulator class to the soft skills course which will give students a hands-on real life financial experience while having to maintain sustainability throughout the simulation. In the hard skills training portion, CSCC has added two more training days creating a seven-day intensive boot camp. In the MIG welding course, students can receive an AWS (American Welding Society) Certification and added this year, OSHA 10 Certification.
Rick Creasy, Executive Director of Workforce Development and Continuing Education, stated, “Our welding program produces results. These students are often times hired before they receive their certificate at the end of the week. I'm not aware of another program in the region or state that is more effective in providing the skills necessary for men and women to obtain a very good entry level job as a welder.”
Brooks said he found out about his interview before he had completed the boot camp, and after asking what skills he would be tested on, he asked his instructor, Roger Johnston, to help him prepare.
“My instructor was great,” stated Brooks. He took time out of his day to help teach me blueprint reading and walked me through every bit of it. Everyone at CSCC has been great. Bre LaMountain (Workforce Development Coordinator) was also extremely helpful. She critiqued my resume for me and gave me feedback on ways I could improve. I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help.”
Brooks was so determined to finish the program that one day, he walked three miles to CSCC after his ride did not show up to take him to class. He has already made $15,000 in three months of work—more than he has ever made at any precious job. Before, he had never owned his own home or a car that wasn’t behind on payments. He had never had health insurance, paid vacations or a Christmas bonus—all of which he has now.
“I wanted a different life and a successful career, and I have that now. This program completely turned my life around. I have recommended this to a lot of people. I have a skill now. I love my job. I have so many opportunities now thanks to Cleveland State.”
For more information about The Refuge, visit http://www.refugecl.org or call (423) 584-5211. For more information about CSCC’s Welding Program, visit http://www.clevelandstatecc.edu or call (423) 472-7141, ext. 447.