Catholic Charities of Baltimore and its St. Edward’s Workforce Development Center (SEWDC) automotive training program graduated seven participants from a 12-week program this month, helping to secure a future for those who may have doubted they had a chance.
“With the seven individuals who graduated from the automotive technician training program, we have now graduated 64 people and 81 percent of past graduates are employed in the automotive field, and four of the seven new graduates already have job offers,” said Bob Keenan, the director of media relations for Catholic Charities of Baltimore.
The graduation ceremony was held in the gymnasium of the former St. Edward’s School on West Lafayette Avenue on August 24, 2017 for participants who faced barriers to employment, including: homelessness, incarceration, and a general lack of education and work experience. Now, with their matriculation, most will go on to begin careers in the automotive field.
In December 2015, Catholic Charities of Baltimore started SEWDC to provide greater opportunities in West Baltimore, according to Keenan.
The program provides classroom and hands-on training for citywide residents who have struggled with barriers to employment and who are interested in pursuing an automotive technician career. Once completed, the program assists in securing employment for graduates.
Since its inception, 64 individuals have graduated from the SEWDC program, which is operated in partnership with the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives and the One Baltimore for Jobs initiative.
“The automotive technician training program lasts 12 weeks, and is a combination of hands-on training on vehicles and classroom training that prepares individuals for the workplace including soft skills and interviewing preparation,” Keenan said. “The Center is operated by Catholic Charities, and also offers job readiness preparation classes and referrals to other service providers and benefits.”
St. Edward’s Workforce Development Center was started as part of series of Catholic Charities’ initiatives in West Baltimore in the aftermath of the unrest in April 2015, following the death of Freddie Gray.
In addition to the Center, Catholic Charities also began working with five churches to either begin or expand food pantries, and in April of 2016 the organization began operating a “Safe Streets” program in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood.
“The feedback from the program graduates has been outstanding. The participants appreciate not only the
preparation for the workforce, but also the support they receive from the program staff during the class and after graduation,” Keenan said. “Many of the graduates remain involved after leaving the program, coming back to provide encouragement to the new class members. The staff works with a number of potential employers throughout the Baltimore region, helping to not only train but also to assist in job placement.”
The ceremony itself has proved memorable, Keenan said.
“The graduation is a celebration of the individuals who have completed the 12-week course. All of the graduates receive Automotive Service Excellence certifications, and many receive multiple certifications like refrigerant or other specific work certifications, Keenan said. “Families are invited to celebrate the achievements of the graduates, and food is served to make sure everyone has a good time at the graduation party.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the program, visit: www.cc-md.org/sewdc or contact the program manager, Anita Donaldson, at 443-885-9054.