Miguel Tucker, 30, grew up in Columbus. As a kid, he says, he spent a lot of time around negative influences.
"I was in the streets, like most kids," Tucker says. "I grew up and saw people selling drugs making money, that’s the lifestyle I wanted to live."
For several years, Miguel did what he thought he had to do to get ahead and survive in the neighborhood – until his cousin and nephew were killed.
"That right there taught me, there’s more in life worth living for," he says.
Miguel needed to make money without resorting to crime. He had an idea of how to turn his life around through a job in the construction trades. But he didn’t have the skills.
To enter a union apprenticeship, you need to pass an entrance exam that covers math, reading comprehension, mechanical aptitude and vocabulary. You also need a high school diploma. Even non-union jobs require certain certificates.
Some people can’t meet these qualifications and are turned away – and those jobs continue to go unfilled. IMPACT Community Action wants to change that with a two-pronged approach to training underserved individuals.
Leland Bass, who works for IMPACT, says one of the biggest barriers is simply that workers haven’t learned the basics of construction.
"There isn’t an avenue for young people to learn these types of skills," Bass says. "In the past, you might have had a class in school – woodshop or something similar. That’s not happening anymore. Those programs aren’t in schools, individuals aren’t aware of them. There are people who may be interested in this type of work but have never picked up tools before."
To prepare folks for these jobs, Leland created IMPACT’s Vocational Training and Certification Program, or VTAC. It isn't union affiliated, the classes are taught by certified workers in the National Skilled Trades Network. When you’ve completed the program, you get a certificate that allows you to work anywhere in the United States.
In addition to VTAC, IMPACT organizes a union-affiliated program called Building Futures, which prepares people on public assistance for entry into apprenticeships.
At an electrical union hall, Building Futures students take their 12-week course. Not only do they brush up on math and literacy skills, they also get a chance to handle tools: saws, drills, hammers, and more.
Bass thinks each of these routes are essential. When someone comes to IMPACT with an interest in the building trades, depending on their circumstance, they can take either or both paths to get to where they want to be.
Tucker took advantage of both VTAC and Building Futures.
"I took one of their VTAC programs and they told me about Building Futures and I jumped head first to it and brought my nephew along with me," he says.
Tucker recruited his nephew, Jayden, into the program, and Tucker says he’s doing pretty well.
"My nephew makes $15 to $16 fresh out of high school and he hasn’t complained yet," Tucker says. "He’s thinking about buying houses. If I, Franklin County, IMPACT, Building Futures can help get kids out of the street and into this program, I think we can build a better community for ourselves."