Electrical training program is changing lives

Posted on November 29, 2016

Jonathan Eubanks, a decorated Air Force veteran who served as a Security Forces Journeyman, didn’t see real career growth opportunities working as a security guard in Houston. He was struggling to support his wife and two kids.

“The hours weren’t reliable, so I started looking for a more stable job,” he said.

Unfortunately, his situation is not uncommon.

Too many Houstonians are living below the poverty line as they move from one minimum wage job to another. According to an Urban Institute report, 6.4 percent of our region’s 25- to 64-year-olds are in this situation despite working full-time.

At the same time, key industries are unable to find sufficiently trained workers for what are called middle-skill jobs – jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.

While searching for a new opportunity at his local Workforce Solutions career office, Jonathan learned about BakerRipley’s ASPIRE program. We launched the program in 2015 with partners JPMorgan Chase, Workforce Solutions and the Greater Houston Partnership’s UpSkill Houston.

He immediately became interested in the electrical apprenticeship program at Trio Electric – one of our employer partners.

Jonathan met with an ASPIRE career coach in April to start the application process. Coaches are available to assist participants throughout the entire program, and Jonathan’s coach helped him polish his interviewing skills. He applied, was accepted, and started at Trio in June. He became a full-time employee after a three-month evaluation period.

Jonathan appreciates the hands-on experience.

“I enjoy having a mentor to teach me about the trade,” he said.

Our partnership with Trio showcases how ASPIRE puts people on a career pathway. At Trio, apprentices start earning $13 per hour and receive a pay raise twice a year. At the end of the four-year program, their pay rate reaches $22.50 per hour. Once people complete the program, they can take an exam to become a journeyman electrician – earning $34 per hour or more as a journeyman with four years’ experience.

Shane Murphy, an instructor at Trio Electric, says the apprenticeship program creates a better industry and more jobs, providing participants more financial stability.

“It’s changing their lives. They are getting a substantial increase in pay and feel like they’ve accomplished something,” Murphy says.

Connecting hardworking people to employers

Besides lifting people out of poverty, ASPIRE is also strengthening our regional economy by filling a significant skills gap. According to a JPMorgan Chase & Co. report, more than 855,000 Houstonians age 25 and older lack the minimum credentials necessary for middle-skill jobs.

At the same time, many baby boomers are retiring, leaving a knowledge vacuum in their wake. This makes the need to educate the next generation greater than ever. Leaders from public, private and nonprofit sectors are aligning the right resources for employers and hardworking people through our ASPIRE program.

Our goal is to move 1,000 individuals from low-wage jobs to living-wage middle-skill jobs in the next three years. Through ASPIRE, we’re connecting neighbors like Jonathan with opportunities to earn a living wage and providing key Houston industries with a skilled workforce.

Visit us here to become involved in the ASPIRE program as an employer partner.

ASPIRE is made possible with investment from JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Rockwell Fund and in-kind support from Houston-Galveston Area Council and Workforce Solutions.