In Sacramento County, Collaborative Program is Creating Hope
Please click here to watch a brief video about this program.
At the Northern California Construction Training Center in Sacramento County, you can find a number of probationers hard at work learning new crafts. And over the sound of hammers and buzz saws, a four-letter word is frequently heard. That word is H-O-P-E.
For many of those taking part in this career training, it’s the first time they’ve had any hope in a long, long time — thanks to a joint program created by the Sacramento County Probation Department, County Office of Education and the nonprofit Northern California Construction Training (NCCT).
Established in late 2013, this nine-month program offers participants an opportunity to learn skills in a variety of trades, including carpentry, electrical, cement work, plumbing, painting, landscaping and forklift operation. For those jobs that require a high school diploma, the program also provides participants with on-site classroom instruction in order to earn their GED. The majority of program expenses are covered by AB 109 funding.\
For most of the participants, there is good reason to have hope. Working closely with 24 local labor unions, the program has a job placement rate for graduates of about 90 percent.
According to David Semon, Sacramento County Probation Assistant Division Chief, the program provides probationers with the necessary training to “become more self-sufficient, more self-confident in their abilities. We want to put them in long-term, meaningful careers. Many really want a second chance and that’s exactly what I believe we are giving them here.”
Ernest Hovey has been in and out of jail and prison most of his adult life. But he believes that’s behind him.
“The reason I wanted to get involved in this program is to find some direction in my life that I was lacking,” he explained. “This program has given me structure, a place to be. It’s given me the tools I need to be successful.”
Participant Claire Nye concurs. “I wish I had this program 10 years ago. It’s given me opportunities. It’s really awesome.”
Interested probationers must meet a series of criteria before they are eligible for the program. Additionally, a probation officer works on-site to assist and monitor their progress. The Probation Department tries to eliminate barriers that could inhibit success; for example, transportation to and from the center is provided when needed.
“All of this is free to them,” said Semon, motioning toward the center floor where there’s a buzz of activity. “We simply ask they stay clean since testing is a component, that they show up on time like any professional job. And if you give your best effort, you are going to get an opportunity to get a job. … We have heard time and time again that it’s been a lifesaver.”
Jake Meehan is the Vice President of the Training Center, and calls the partnership with County Probation and Office of Education “a perfect fit.”
“We trying to give them the skills so they can give back to the community rather than taking away from the community,” Meehan said. “They need hope; their families need hope. We’re changing families’ lives, not just individuals’ lives.”
“It gives you hope. It lets you know that you’re not out there on that limb alone anymore. That there’s a tether,” added Hovey, who’s going to join the local ironworkers union. “Without this program I would be struggling, right on the precipice of going back to jail.”
“You see a lot of people with hope in their eyes and hope in their lives,” concluded Meehan “And we are just doing that with construction.”
The Sacramento County Probation Department’s Career Training Partnership was honored as part of the 2016 CSAC Challenge Awards, which recognize the most innovative best practices developed by California Counties.