ROCHESTER — Shantresia Nix doesn’t believe she would be employed right now had it not been for a job-training program formed through a partnership between PathStone Corp. and Monroe Community College.
"I’d be at square one," Nix said during the final week of the program, which is located in a construction lab on the second floor of the Wilmorite Sibley Tower Building, also the site of the college’s Damon City Campus. "Or I’d be filling out applications or just trying to get a job to put food on the table. (The program) made a difference."
Nix of Rochester was one of 12 participants in the 13-week Pathways Out of Poverty program. The program was funded by two grants totaling $8 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2010 to serve low-income residents in New York, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, explained Noemi Alvarado, PathStone’s deputy of training and employment . The program targets high-school dropouts, unemployed Rochester residents and recently released prisoners. In addition to hands-on training in standard and "green" construction, participants also receive referral and job placement services, Alvarado said.
The participants also earn a credential recognized by the Homebuilders Institute and the National Homebuilders Association, said Thomas Fitch, MCC’s program director for workforce development. They also undergo a 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification, he added.
"The skills all fall under the green-skills umbrella," Fitch noted.
These participants also have faced additional barriers to employment including not having transportation or even a driver’s license, Alvarado remarked.
"We have to find a way that if they gain employment, they also secure transportation … to make sure they can make it through," she added, remarking that PathStone employees have even gone as far as providing that transportation when necessary.
"One of the things we notice is we have to become so creative," she said.
Max Cherry of Rochester said that the bus passes provided by PathStone have helped him greatly as his new employer, Beechwood Development, has properties all over Rochester.
Cherry and Nix were learning the basics of masonry on their last day in the program July 13 as they built a short brick wall with instructor Jim Ellison. Through the 200 hours of training, the participants also learned electrical, plumbing, dry wall building, precision measuring and exterior shielding, Fitch explained.
That brick wall would later be torn down as all materials are recycled for future student training, Ellison added. Much of the instruction focused on other energy-efficient topics such as solar and wind power, he said. A discussion on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial process also known as hydrofracking that uses water to fracture shale and release gas, was the first time most participants had heard of the topic, Ellison said.
"But the hands-on portion was a bigger hit than classroom training," he noted.
MCC instructors provide all of the training in the construction lab formerly occupied by the Department of Motor Vehicles, Fitch added. The program currently uses only 4,500 square feet of the 16,000-square-foot space, he said. Two groups of students will begin a new session in August.
Cherry learned about the job-training program, which he completed in mid-July, through a friend. Having been unemployed for a year when his previous employer moved out of town, Cherry said that he was grateful to have found a viable option for work.
The program "has done a lot for me already," remarked Cherry, 52.
In addition to the training and referral to a job, PathStone employees helped him create an e-mail address and a résumé, he added.
"I was computer illiterate," said Cherry, who worked 11 years as a machine operator and nearly 20 years as an insulation mechanic before he served time in prison. "You name it, they have come through with everything so far."
The experience was like no other for Nix, who had worked in child care for seven years before she decided to switch careers. Nix, 25, graduated from Churchville-Chili High School and attended MCC.
"We got a lot out of it," Cherry said of the program.