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Labor & Economy

Discovering the Power of a Good Job

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At a time when there are so few programs that create good career-path jobs, it’s exciting to see one that is doing just that. RePower LA worked with IBEW Local 18 and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to support the creation of the Utility Pre-Craft Training (UPCT) program. Launched in 2011, this is a program that creates real jobs and has a real impact on the lives of real everyday people.

Recently, I was asked to attend a training session at a labor-management joint-training institute. I was excited to talk one-on-one with the men and women who have been accepted into this unique on-the-job training program that prepares workers for careers in the utility.

There were two things that struck me immediately when I met this group of trainees. First was the incredible diversity of the group: old and young, women and men, college and GED graduates, people of many ethnicities. I met war veterans who had been out of work for close to two and a half years and were on the brink of filing for bankruptcy. I met young fathers who were receiving foreclosure statements when they got the call that they had been accepted into the program. This program really does matter.

Second, I was surprised by how many women were in this new class of trainees. Seven out of 24 are women – an important fact given that five million more women than men live in poverty. Families headed by a single adult are more likely to be headed by women and these female-headed families are at much greater risk of living in poverty. These women related their stories to me and painted pictures of both the trials of being unemployed and the triumph of their acceptance into the UPCT program. I spoke to a single mother who had been receiving government assistance for two years and she told me how proud her family was that she was finally able to support herself and her children, ultimately moving all of them out of government housing and into her own apartment.

These men and women are now on a path to career jobs that will lift some of them out of poverty and give others a much-needed fresh start on life. This experience deepened my understanding of the simple truth that if given half a chance, Americans of all shades and backgrounds will choose to work, and work hard.

(Hasira Ashemu is a Senior Communications Specialist at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.)

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