Opening the Door

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Brazosport_opening_doorJumpstart program offers free training for industrial jobs

For many people, two of the biggest obstacles to gaining entry into specialized industrial jobs are lack of education and no affordable job training. For those facing this dilemma, Brazosport College has been offering a potential solution.

8-9-Pipefitting_July_2014_0670A few years ago, Brazosport College began its Jumpstart program, a free community-training program for those seeking entry-level certifications for specialized industrial jobs. The program was aimed at those with a high school diploma or a GED, but little to no work experience.

Since it began, the response to the free program has been overwhelming, as more than 100 people have completed the nine-week course and many students acquiring jobs within local industry.

Students haven’t been the only ones affected by the success of the Jumpstart program.

“This has been very fulfilling for us because we can see the results,” said Art Longoria, Brazosport College Jumpstart Project Manager. “People are hurting and it’s very satisfying to be able to help. Jumpstart is an opportunity to become trained in a new field in an area in which construction jobs are booming. Everyone has been so appreciative of what we do.”

The nine-week Jumpstart program has trained students for potential careers in pipefitting, electrical and millwright. The sessions usually run three times a year, with the summer session set to begin on June 9 for those seeking training in the pipefitting field.

8-9-Pipefitting_July_2014_0664Thanks to the success of the nine-week program, Brazosport College recently added a second option to its Jumpstart program, making the program available to even more people.

Funded by an Accelerate Texas Grant, the ATX Jumpstart option is a 15-week, full-semester program for individuals who lack a high school diploma or GED. Students are trained for entry-level certifications in the pipefitting field.

“This is a wonderful and unique opportunity for qualifying adults who, for whatever reason, were unable to complete their high school education,” said Brazosport College Grant Project Manager Kay Brooks about the 15-week Jumpstart program. “They take GED classes that prepare them to take the GED test while, at the same time, take classes that give them pipefitting job skills that allow them to apply for well-paying jobs after just 15 weeks. It’s all free. However, potential students must pass a qualifying test and must be willing to commit four days a week to the program.”

Brazosport College has offered the full-semester program twice now, with a number of students not only earning their GED, but also the full benefits of the Jumpstart program. All Jumpstart students — both the nine-week and 15-week ATX programs — earn nine college credit hours, a Marketable Skills Award from Brazosport College, an NCCER Core Curriculum Certification and Blue Card, and an NCCER Level 1 Helper Certification in either pipefitting, electrical or millwright upon completion of the program.

This summer’s ATX Jumpstart program is already in session, but it will be offered again this fall.

One thing is for certain, though, the Jumpstart program through Brazosport College provides the needed training for someone to have a shot at entry-level positions in specialized industrial positions during a time when workers are in high demand.

“A lot of people are working part-time, minimum-wage jobs or not working at all,” Longoria said. “We’ve been able to bring them in and help them become certified for jobs ranging $16 to $25 an hour.

“We’ve had so much involvement from the local community and local contractors,” Longoria added. “They give our Jumpstart graduates a good look and hopefully, that gives them an advantage.”

For more information about the Jumpstart program, visit www.brazosport.edu/jumpstart, or e-mail relanda.rushing@brazosport.edu, ashley.bulanek@brazosport.edu or art.longoria@brazosport.edu.

Brazosport_Sam_HarkreaderA new craft provides a new start for Sweeny grad

In his own words, Sam Harkreader was “young and living the good life.”

Sam, a Sweeny High School graduate, was living in the Arlington area with his wife and young daughter. He was also making a good living with oil and gas investments and a business he started with his father. No doubt, life was good.

Then the oil and gas industry began making a downturn and their company was in jeopardy. In an attempt to salvage the business, Sam made a sacrifice — himself.

“My father was talking about not taking a paycheck so he could pay me and help the business make it through everything,” Sam said. “I told him to either lay me off or I would quit. He was too close to retirement and I wasn’t going to jeopardize that for him.”

As a result, Sam and his family left their Arlington home and moved back to Brazoria County. For a short time, they lived with his wife’s family in Lake Jackson before eventually moving into a fifth-wheel camper, while Sam worked to get back on his feet selling insurance.

Soon after, he saw an ad for Brazosport College’s Jumpstart program, advertising free workforce training.

“You wake up and realize that you have a wife and a child, and there isn’t much of a future without training,” Sam said. “So, we rolled the dice.”

Nine weeks later, Sam completed the Jumpstart’s millwright training program and was ready to begin seeking a new career.

“Jumpstart taught me a new craft and allowed me to get my foot in the door and prove my work ethic,” Sam said. “It gave me the tools to get in. The instructors take their time and have patience.”

Today, Sam is working his way up in a new industry but, more importantly, he’s able to support his family. He’s even considering the possibility of enrolling in machining classes at Brazosport College to increase his skillset even more.

As for the Jumpstart program, he doesn’t hesitate to offer an opinion.

“Do it — just do it,” he said. “If it’s a question, don’t let your own fear hold you back. I could have easily done that, but I did it. Overall, my income has increased by about 50 percent because of the classes here.”

Brazosport_Donald_DoddsStudent goes above and beyond to attend Jumpstart class

Donald Dodds has encountered many difficulties throughout his 37 years of life. He’s spent time in jail and has overcome serious problems with drugs. He’s also had more than his share of tragedies, including untimely deaths of close family members.

He’s the first to admit that he “hasn’t been an angel.” However, he’s also successfully been on a quest to not only turn his life around, but to better it and become a positive influence on those around him. And Brazosport College’s Jumpstart program has played a big role in this.

“All of the stuff I’ve been through has built me into the man I am today,” Donald said. “I’m passionate about people and I want to help guide them in the right direction. I’ve also always wanted to go to college, and the Jumpstart program gave me a chance to do that.”

For Donald, getting through the nine-week Jumpstart electrical program took fierce determination.

Living in Holiday Lakes and being without a car, Donald was forced, at times, to walk more than 20 miles in order to get to school for his 8:30 a.m. Jumpstart class. Eventually, he was able to take advantage of the Southern Brazoria County Transit Service, but he still had to get himself from his home to Angleton before stepping on the bus.

“I would leave my house and begin walking at 6 in the morning because I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by,” Donald said. “People thought I was crazy, but this was my opportunity to better myself, my future and my kids’ future,” he added.

Donald eventually completed the program and now has the training to get an entry-level job in the electrical field.

“Currently, I’m working in scaffolding, but I have the criteria needed to get into the electrical field,” he said. “The door will open when the time is right.”

For Donald, everything goes back to his faith in God. His faith has pulled him through an abundance of difficult moments and provided him the strength to remain positive. At the same time, he’s also proved his amount of dedication and determination with his experience in the Jumpstart program.

“Jumpstart taught me so much,” Donald said. “Through this experience, I figured out so many things about myself — about how dedicated I could be. Who would walk from Holiday Lakes for an education? I did.”

Brazosport_Levi_PattonGED, workforce training both in reach through Jumpstart program

Levi Patton wanted a career, but the odds were stacked against him.

Actually, it’s never easy for someone like Levi, who dropped out of high school during his junior year. It doesn’t matter that the reason for quitting school was to provide for his newborn daughter, a lack of both a high school diploma and also job-skills training serves as a double-shot of challenges that are hard to overcome when seeking a potential career.

The one advantage Levi had, however, was a strong work ethic and a will to succeed. Brazosport College’s ATX Jumpstart program was a perfect choice for him.

Through the ATX Jumpstart program, Levi was able to take GED classes, as well as receive free workforce training in the pipefitting field. The GED-included ATX Jumpstart program is a 15-week program that assists students in earning both their GED and workforce training. The GED-included class was introduced after the success of Brazosport College’s original nine-week Jumpstart workforce training program.

“It really helped me a lot,” Levi said. “My cousin, James Bergeron, was also in it, and he graduated too. It’s great when you can get the skills to get a job and a GED at basically the same time.”

While enrolling in the ATX Jumpstart program gave Levi a chance, he knew it would be hard work in order to complete the program.

But Levi couldn’t just go to school because he had a family to support. To make ends meet, he went to school four days a week, while also working three jobs. In addition to school, he spent Fridays and Saturdays at a tire shop, Sundays at an air conditioning business and five nights a week working at a department store.

He admits it was a long 15 weeks, but it was worth it, as he now has a solid job in the pipefitting field. He’s even back at Brazosport College and is currently enrolled in the pipefitting program.

“The amount of pay has been incredible for us,” Levi said. “Before, I was living paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t have a high school education, so I couldn’t get into the plants. Jumpstart allowed me the opportunity to go straight into the plant and make real money.”

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