Annamarie Perkins had been laid off from her job as a CT Transit bus driver when she came across a construction training program. She intended to check it out for her sons—then decided to sign up herself.
After six months of training, Perkins (pictured) is now ready to hit the job site as a painting apprentice.
Perkins was one of 47 people who graduated Friday from the Construction Workforce Initiative 2, Inc.‘s Cozzi-J. Miller-Pearson Career Development School run by Nichole Jefferson, director of the city’s Commission on Equal Opportunities. The free, six-month program trains students in job readiness skills as well as trade skills in four areas: carpentry, painting/taping, plumbing, and masonry. The goal is to prepare workers for apprenticeships. At a graduation ceremony Friday at 316 Dixwell Ave., some of the graduates had already landed jobs. Others, like Perkins, were still looking.
The program, founded in 2003, is one of various jobs “pipelines” that aim to address high unemployment and underemployment in a city that’s growing an “eds and meds” economy. New Haven’s unemployment rate roughly doubled over the past 20 years, to between 12 and 13 percent, while more than 2,000 new jobs were created.
Perkins, the mother of three grown boys, ages 22, 25 and 30, didn’t see herself in the construction trades. She said she stopped in to check out the program for her sons. Her sons didn’t qualify because they didn’t have driver’s licenses. But she did. Starting in July, she showed up to the program five days a week for six months.
Every morning, staff led the students through several miles of walking, followed by pushups, squats and jumping jacks. Perkins said when she started out, she couldn’t touch her toes. She pushed through and lost about 25 pounds in the process. She also learned a lot about how to paint.
“I thought I knew how to slap some paint on the wall?” she said. Her teacher said “come down from there.” He showed her how it’s done.
At the end of six months, she said, “I didn’t only take away the painting trade.” She took away a lesson: “No matter who you are, all things are possible.”
Now Perkins hopes to land a spot in the painters and tapers union. She’s also looking for work.
Perkins served as one of two valedictorian-type speakers at the graduation ceremony Friday. Meet some of her fellow classmates, some of whom have landed apprenticeships, others of whom are looking for work:
Name: Stephen Jones.
Where he lives: Newhallville.
Before: Worked at West Haven Dental.
Learned: How to cut bricks, make mortar, weigh floors, and lay foundations.
Next step: Starts a bricklaying apprenticeship in March.
Quote: “This program was a second chance for most of us. It was a wonderful experience.”
Name: Prince Hayward.
Where he lives: Hamden.
Before: Unemployed for nearly three years, except for odd jobs.
Next step: “I’m going to try to join the union.”
Name: Hugh Hall
Where he lives: Dwight neighborhood. (Originally from Jamaica.)
Before: Worked at Walmart for five years. Unemployed for two.
Next step: Looking for work. “Anything comes along, I’ll go with it.”
Name: Torell Boyd.
From: Newhallville. Hillhouse High graduate, class of 2006. Now lives in the Hill.
Before: Worked at Price Rite supermarket.
Next step: Landed an apprenticeship at a plumbing company.
Quote: “I feel excited. It’s something I’m going to succeed in. It’s going to keep me financially stable” to support his two kids, ages 6 years and 3 months.
Name: James Tate.
Where he lives: Bridgeport.
Specialty: Painting and taping.
Before: Works as a handyman at a hotel.
Next step: Looking for an apprenticeship in painting or sheetrock finishing.
Name: Chaz Stewart.
Specialty: Painting and taping.
Before: Coached basketball at Hillhouse High.
Next step: Looking for work as a laborer; applying to the painters and tapers union.
Name: Michelle Johnson.
Next step: Already landed a carpentry job on Nov. 22 with a local company she met through this program. A single mother of a 5-year-old daughter, she now has a full-time job. “I’m so proud.”
Name: Michael Sherman.
Where he lives: Beaver Hills neighborhood.
Before: Loaded trucks at a Budweiser warehouse.
What he learned: Floor tiling, trimming work, sheet rock, stairs.
Next step: Looking for full-time work.
Name: Garry Henderson.
Before: Just graduated from Hillhouse in 2012.
Learned: Through skills he learned at the program, he fixed the steps at the Dickerman Street home of his grandmother, block watch maven and community activist Ruth Henderson. The steps had been broken for six years, she said.
Next step: Taking a test to get into the carpentry union next month. Waiting to hear back about a job he has applied for.
Name: Cecil Baldwin.
Before: Worked as a cashier, and in the meat department, at Price Rite.
Next step: Looking for a full-time job to support his three kids, ages 2, 7 and 15. Just applied to a job with A & G Construction, which has pledged to hire four of eight recent graduates from the school.
Quote: “I’m hoping I’m one of the few people they choose.”