Jeff Humphrey

Heading to Higher Paying Jobs

Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 2:25 p.m.

Inside a restaurant that will soon bring new life to East Central Spokane, students like Melissa Halvorson are learning what it takes to make a living in construction.

“So I have three children and over the past decade I’ve been working in the business field or sales and no matter what I was doing, I could never get above the poverty level because I don’t have a bachelor’s degree,” explained Halvorson.

That’s why Halvorson signed up for the “Head Start to the Construction Trades” training program. The free, six-week class teaches the basics about how to build things

“We develop six areas… that’s physical, mental, emotional control, intuition, skills trades and then spirit. So an unconquerable spirit,” said Associated General Contractors instructor Shawn Kingsbury.

And spirits run high in this all-female class, nicknamed by their instructor “The Magnificent Seven.”

Amanda Brown is shoring up her life after drug addiction derailed her dreams when she was just 14. “It gives me better hope that I can push my boys into the construction field more than the drug history that’s in the family, so they have a better chance at life and they don’t have to wait until they’re 29 like me to get this opportunity,” predicted Brown.

The hands-on training prepares students for a variety of entry level construction jobs including skills that can keep them employed even after building slows down for the winter.

“We got our OSHA 10 certification, we got out flagger certification and our forklift certification so with those, we can use those warehouse jobs at Home Depot or even in the back at Walmart,” Brown said.

Because this contractor apprenticeship helps put people to work, the program is supported by grants from the City’s Community Housing and Human Services department.

Spokane’s mayor and city council showed up for the students’ graduation saying, “equality starts with equal access to the area’s better paying jobs.”

But perhaps more than anything else, this course built confidence. Now there are seven women out there ready to take charge of their own future and help provide for their families.

When asked if she was impressed with the changes she has seen in her daughter Carie Chepoda said, “Absolutely. This has been an amazing six weeks. This class has been really fabulous. It has been quite a development.”

“I was surprised by the amount of energy and the amount of gratitude and they were just so ready for whatever came their way, and I love that,” Kingsbury added.

The Associated General Contractors of the Inland Northwest launch their next Head Start program inside the Geiger Corrections Center this week.

The hope is, if inmates can learn more about the construction trade, they are more likely to be self-sufficient and stable in our community when they are released.

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