OPINION – I recently met a young man named James. He’s 21 years old and cannot read. This year James enrolled in our Green Tech Pre-Apprentice program for Green Building Construction. He’s been in and out of jail for a few years, mostly for non-violent drug offenses. Now he’s on probation and he humbly shared with me his concern for his life and nearly being stabbed with a knife as the catalyst that changed his mindset.
James asked me, “Mr. Gant, do you think you could get me into the community college?”
While stunned by this revelation, there are nearly 200 men and women throughout the state of California released into the community every week due to the passage of Proposition 47. Many of them have hit rock bottom. Without a job, technical training or continued general education, they are more likely to relapse, recommit and end up back in jail.
Green Tech started its pre-apprentice program for ex-offenders this year to provide support to people re-entering society. Our goal is to inform them of the changing principles in construction, utilities, manufacturing, transportation and environmental management. We also continue to educate them about soft skills. They still need to know the importance of getting to work on time, appearance and demeanor.
For many people, re-entering society is just another first step to a long journey of the unknown. One of our instructors told them once they have determined what they want to do, they need to stay laser focused. It has to be on their mind everyday they wake up.
Many of our students have the skills to work in these industries and are very excited about energy auditing, weatherizing buildings and installing solar panels. However, many employers will not give them an opportunity to work and get on a straight path of productivity. Green Tech activities give our students hope for employment with solar companies, utilities, and private contractors that are willing to give them a chance to help their business and help themselves. We also encourage self-employment.
At Green Tech, we know some will succeed and we are taking their excitement, providing them with tools and a path toward employment and since we have two executive board members at the highest level of two different community colleges, we will get James into school and give him a hand up.
By Simeon Gant