September 08, 2016
The Cooper Foundation and Camden Mayor Dana Redd announced Thursday a major initiative aimed at training city residents for construction trades training.
The goal of the Camden Construction Career Initiative is to by the end of 2017 prepare 100 residents through a pre-apprentice program overseen by the Union Organization for Social Service, or UOSS.
The 10-week program is meant to teach not just construction skills, but also life skills and career development strategies.
To make that happen, students will complete 260 hours of training, including CPR, financial skills, tool handling, preparing them to apply as a union apprentice.
Micah Cook, 32, did similar training two years ago with a UOSS program. It changed his life.
The East Camden resident had a bunch of jobs that went nowhere and no health care before the training.
Now the community college dropout says his life is stable, with health benefits and money to raise two kids.
“It makes me feel good. I wake up and say, ‘Dag, I made it!’”
Cook said learning life skills was as important as the job training. He also was able to meet cross-section of other trainees from across the city and remains in touch with them.
“It opened my eyes to the city,” he said.
His advice to those wanting to sign up for training?
“It’s hard work and you'd better be in shape.”
Underwriting the costs of training are a large number of business organizations with ties to George E. Norcross III, the chairman of Cooper University Health Care.
Additional organizations are being pressed to also step up, according to Susan Bass Levin, CEO and president of the Cooper Foundation, which will serve to coordinate the sign-ups and training.
“We have a willing workforce in the city of Camden, that with the right training, can directly participate in the construction projects they see happening out their window,” said Levin.
Joseph Ferguson, COO of the Mastery charter school, and one of the underwriting companies, plans to support the program – and benefit because his organization has plans to build and do reconstruction around the city.
Letters in English and Spanish are going out to every Camden household about sign-ups for the program.
City residents interested in participating must apply and complete an interview. Applicants must be at least 19 years old, hold a valid driver’s license, provide proof of insurance and vehicle registration, and have a clean driving record.
Camden residents interested in applying can attend one of the four outreach sessions scheduled across the city to learn more and apply for the program.
The sessions are:
• Sept. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Catto School, 3100 Westfield Ave.
• Sept. 22 at Malandra Hall from 10 a.m to noon, New Jersey and Merrimack streets
• Sept. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sumner Elementary School, 1600 S. 8th St.
• Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. until noon at the Pyne Poynt School, 7th and Erie streets, in Room 138
“As Camden continues to rise, we have a responsibility and obligation to residents to ensure they have access to the jobs that are being created by the city’s construction boom,” said Norcross.
Norcross attended the announcement sporting a nascent beard, the result of a football bet with his son.
For information about the Camden Construction Career Initiative or to apply, contact Info@camdencareer.com or call (856) 757-9154.
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Disclosure: PhillyVoice Director Lexie Norcross sits on the Cooper Foundation Board of Trustees. Her father, George E. Norcross III ,is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Cooper Health System.