It’s a sticky problem for men who have been incarcerated: they are expected to work and support their families, yet relatively few are trained in jobs that pay beyond minimum wage.
Now, thanks to a new collaboration between the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Career Development and Placement Strategies Inc. (CDPSI), many of those men not only will get the training they need, they also will step into ready employment. The men, who first complete a CDPSI job readiness program, participate in a 560-hour paid internship in home renovation and entrepreneurship.
This program, which began as a pilot last November, is no mere exercise in hanging drywall-though drywall installation is one of many skills they learn. Their training begins by learning, under the supervision of a general contractor, how to accurately take measurements and estimate a renovation project; then they move on to time management, dress codes, using various tools and preparing work schedules for a work crew. Only with those basics in place do they learn the “hard skills” of rehab-painting, carpentry and trim work, laying floors, installing windows and doors, and finishing.
“The goal is to get them through six months of on-the-job training, then place them in employment,” says Maurice Stevens, Executive Director of CDPSI.
Partnering with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, which provides three homes for each internship cycle and up to $45,000 in materials and direct rehabilitation costs per home affords the capability of adding technical skills training and later when the home is sold, and returned to productive use in the community, the Cuyahoga Land Bank will recoup its investment often at a profit as well.
“Historically, CDPSI participants have been faced with multiple barriers to succeeding in the community. This will help us eliminate one critical barrier-the lack of experience to be competitive in the job market,” said Stevens.
During their final weeks in the program, the men learn various aspects of running their own business: developing contracts, budgets, mechanic’s liens, invoicing, and insurance and bonding. When they graduate from their internships, they know what to expect from a job in construction-and if they decide to take their experience to the next level and start their own renovation business, they are equipped with the basics they need for successful self-employment.
“We are always looking for ways to create opportunities, using the resources that we have,” says Gus Frangos, President of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “Through this partnership with CDPSI, we are able to transform our properties into training platforms. The end result is at least six successfully renovated properties a year and lives that have been permanently improved.”
At this writing, CDPSI’s interns have completed renovation in two homes: the first was in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood and the second-along with a third renovation in progress-in Euclid.