Tag Archives: GED

Finding the Right Path

30 Sep

Growing up, it wasJacob Rico not easy for Jacob Rico to find his path. Jacob was raised by a single mother as the middle child of seven, and he had trouble finding subjects he liked in high school. Because of a lack of focus, he began skipping class, “roaming aimlessly,” and ultimately dropped out of school altogether. However, thanks to the services provided by the Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (WERC) and American YouthWorks, Jacob found his true destination – welding – and is excelling in his field!

While out of school, Jacob began working part-time in the construction industry. He later tried to return to school for his General Education Development (GED), but the large class size made it difficult to have one-on-one time with his instructor. So, he dropped out of the GED program and returned to construction work.

One of Jacob’s friends, who had also dropped out of high school, told him about the American YouthWorks YouthBuild program. As a part of the overall WERC program, American YouthWorks YouthBuild is a career training program that helps young adults learn hands-on constructions skills and green building techniques while constructing houses for low-income, first time homebuyers. Jacob’s flexible schedule allowed him to work part-time on a YouthBuild construction crew while also attending GED preparation courses with a lower instructor-to-student ratio, allowing Jacob more one-on-one time with his instructor. American YouthWorks/WERC paid for Jacob’s GED tests, all of which he passed the first time!

Jacob discussed career options with American YouthWorks/WERC counselors, who encouraged him to explore careers such as automotive mechanic and welding. He had taken an automotive mechanic class in high school and decided he was not interested in that career, so he decided to try welding.

As a part of American YouthWorks/WERC, Jacob completed several introductory and intermediate welding courses at Austin Community College (ACC). “I didn’t like math in school, but once it was put into construction terms, it clicked,” he said. “It became interesting.”

At ACC, Jacob’s welding instructor valued his raw talent and recommended him for an internship at a small welding company. American YouthWorks/WERC paid for Jacob’s 300-hour internship.

By the end of his internship, Jacob had impressed the company so much that he received a full-time job offer! Empowered by the offer, he expanded his job search and accepted a position with a larger company that allowed for more opportunities to learn his craft. “My boss relies on me to do my own job; he trusts me to work fast and hard, to push myself to the limit. I like the independence,” Jacob said.

Not content with one opportunity, Jacob interviewed for and was accepted into the Sheet Metal Workers Union! He has completed the first year of a four-year apprenticeship program and takes union classes such as drafting and welding. “The opportunities are endless,” he said.

Jacob said the American YouthWorks/WERC program gave him valuable knowledge about different careers that he did not receive in high school. “If a high school doesn’t have a lot of extracurricular options, and the student doesn’t have encouragement or knowledge [of career choices], a student might be content to work whatever job he or she can find,” he said. “You have to not be content, always push for more.”

 

About WERC

The Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (WERC) is a City of Austin-funded network of community partners linked to help prepare Austin-area residents to enter or reenter today’s competitive job market. With 38 locations, WERC provides client services ranging from Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) to job readiness instruction and occupational training with the goal of empowering clients with the skills they need to advance their employment opportunities and realize their economic potential. For more information, please visit www.wercaustin.com.

Learning to Pay It Forward

30 Sep

Cameron Johns - PhotoCameron Johns has and has always had what it takes to succeed. However, it wasn’t until recently he began to realize it for himself. A bright student without a concrete vision of the future and little intrinsic motivation, Cameron dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. Surrounded by distractions, he became involved in the juvenile justice system and saw even fewer positive prospects for his future.

After a couple of years floating from one job to another, one distraction to another, a friend’s advice led him to the Workforce Investment Act (WIA ) Youth Services program and Youth Employment Partnership (YEP) partner Goodwill.

For the first several months, Cameron was very eager to attend GED preparation classes.  However, following the death of a close family member, he began to lose motivation and momentum. After several months of lackluster participation in classes, Cameron sat down with his case manager Rachel Bristow to have a serious conversation about the goals he had established for himself. During this conversation, Cameron realized his goals hadn’t changed. He still wanted to do better for himself and to set a truly positive example in and for his family. Cameron’s memory of his cousin, who had continuously encouraged him to do and be better, pushed him to renew his education and professional efforts.

“A fire was lit within Cameron,” says Rachel Bristow. “He took his life into his own hands and became the driver of his own success.”

“Everything hasn’t been easy. But to me, he demonstrates exactly what our program can do for people.”

Cameron graduated with his GED in January of 2013 and was elected as the youth representative from his class to speak to his peers during the graduation ceremony. Shortly before completing his final GED tests, Cameron was placed in a short-term internship at a Goodwill retail store in order to gain hands on job experience. He was so successful as a youth intern that his store manager insisted upon hiring him before his internship hours had even been completed.

Despite being groomed for a management track at work, Cameron has not abandoned his educational goals. He has enrolled in classes at Austin Community College and hopes to eventually transfer to the University of Texas.

“Goodwill is not the last step,” says Cameron. “It’s the first step. I want to be a juvenile probation officer.  I’ll be able to relate. I’ve lived it. And after a few years, I’d like to go back to school to become a lawyer.”

“I’ve gained so much. I want to pay it forward.”

About WIA Youth Services

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Youth Services program is a no-cost employment program designed to help low-income youth, aged 14-21, prepare for success in the classroom – and on the job. In our region, WIA Youth services are coordinated through the Youth Employment Partnership (YEP).

Services Include:

  • GED or High School Equivalency Preparation
  • Alternative Secondary School Services
  • Tutoring, Study Skills Training, and Instruction
  • Career Counseling
  • Leadership Skills Development
  • Job Skills Training
  • Employment Opportunities and Paid Work Experience