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ECC Helps Put YouthBuild Grads on the Job with LA Builder

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Emerald Cities Los Angeles recently played a critical “bridging” role in the placement of La Causa YouthBuild graduates Marco Loera, 23, and Alejandro Martinez, 23, in their first construction jobs, where they earn journeyman wages totaling $47 an hour.  The two work for local contractor Cal-City Construction on a Los Angeles County Community Development Commission project in southern LA County’s East Rancho Dominguez community.

Bridges Connecting to Opportunity
To create the needed bridge between YouthBuild, its national and local partner, and Cal-City, the EC Los Angeles team made sure all contracts specified Los Angeles-based YouthBuild programs to provide pre-apprenticeship training. This reinforced to the contractor that YouthBuild is a source for well-trained, enthusiastic youth who are seeking a career in construction. But targeted hiring goals also require a committed team to make the hiring connections.

“Proactive compliance is an essential component of a ready pipeline. On-going and positive  connections to employers are an indispensible part of the monitoring, hiring and compliance process,” said Emerald Cities Collaborative national President and CEO Denise Fairchild.

High Praise After Just One Week
It took only one week of work for Cal-City Construction Superintendent John Seo to say he hoped to rehire Loera and Martinez when more work became available. He praised both their skills and work ethic, reported Anabel Barragan, director of construction relations for SGI Construction Management, a firm that manages projects for public agencies across California.

And now that work on the East Rancho Dominguez project has escalated, Marco and Alejandro are on the jobsite again, earning journeyman wages and furthering their careers in construction.

“This is fantastic!” declared Daryl Wright, vice president for career development at parent organization YouthBuild U.S.A. “This is a promising result for the YouthBuild-Emerald Cities partnership and a testament to Marco and Alex’s hard work.”

Agreements for Local, Disadvantaged Hires
The East Rancho Dominguez Recreation and Senior Center Project includes space for a senior center and will add approximately 4,100 square feet to the existing 17,000-square-foot recreation center. The project also includes remodeling, addition of a courtyard and expansion of the parking lot.

EC Los Angeles Director Veronica Soto noted that the project, which is in LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas's district, requires that at least 30 percent of all project hours be performed by local workers and 10 percent by disadvantaged local workers.

“This is what is possible when the right contract provisions and oversight are applied to a public works project,” Soto said.

Young Workers’ Lives Transformed
Alejandro graduated from LA Causa YouthBuild in June 2014. His goal is to become a highly skilled union carpenter, but that came only after a few years of personal challenges. While participating in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recreational programs during his younger years, peer pressure led him to bounce around among four traditional and alternative high schools and ultimately dropped out.

He then spent two years in prison, which he views as a costly lesson learned. His sights are now on passing the California High School Exit Exam to secure the high diploma he earned at the LA Causa charter high school.

“LA Causa changed my life around.  Thank God that there is a charter school at YouthBuild. Youth Build is like family, and now I have goals,” said Alejandro.

Alejandro shared that his two-year-old daughter motivates him to be positive and nice and to strive for goals. His immediate goals are to be a good father and worker, to share a home with his family and to further his education and training.

Marco graduated from YouthBuild in 2013. Like Alejandro, he found himself transferring from one high school to the next until he, too, dropped out of school. After continuous challenges at three traditional high schools and one continuation high school, he was 45 unit credits short of graduating yet determined to earn a high school diploma – a goal he achieved at the YouthBuild La Causa charter high school.

“YouthBuild taught me mental toughness, motivated me to do something with my life; and I hope it’s my first step to get ahead,” said Marco.

Marco is committed to joining the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to become a union journeyman electrician. He has already set himself on the right path by taking the practice exam and accumulating one year of general education classes at East Los Angeles Community College.

Academy Adds Skills, Furthers Workforce Diversity
Martinez and Loera gained needed skills at the LA Region YouthBuild Collaborative’s Construction Academy, whose rigorous curriculum both imparts skills graduates need to be competitive with contractors and helps contractors comply with workforce diversity requirements 

Wright said the academy was the “brainchild” of Rossie Johnson, a key YouthBuild staff member, who sought to provide additional preparation for YouthBuild graduates.

La Causa YouthBuild Executive Director Sonia Sanchez said Martinez was excited to show off his paycheck to her and her staff, telling them he has always wanted to work in construction. “The staff and I are very proud of Alex and Marco for demonstrating their potential and showing what YouthBuild and the Construction Academy can do for our young people,” she said.

 A True Cooperative Effort
Wright praised Construction Academy trainers Kirk Henry of Century Center for Economic Opportunity, Ben Garcia of LaCausa YouthBuild and Jesse Duran of Women in Non-Traditional Employment Roles. “This was a great cooperative effort,” Wright said.

He added that Kevin DePina, an LA-based consultant with YouthBuild U.S.A., is making sure the academy’s first four graduates, including Loera and Martinez, are either applying for union-sponsored registered apprenticeship training or pursing other construction industry opportunities.

Sanchez said the program’s success also relied on help and support from Barragan and the guidance and enthusiasm of Wright and DePina.

Fairchild summed it all up: “It really does take a village to build a pathway!” she said.

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YouthBuild U.S.A.’s nationwide program in 264 U.S. locations engages some 10,000 16- to 24-year-olds each year in full-time work towards their GEDs or high school diplomas while they acquire job skills by building affordable housing in their communities. Graduates are placed in college, jobs or both. 

The program emphasizes leadership development, community service and creation of a “positive mini-community of adults and youth committed to each other’s success,” according to the program’s website. 

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