Workforce prep program targets female offenders


The construction training program comes with a couple of twists. It's not just designed for women, but women with records, former offenders trying to turn their lives around.

Andrea Huerta has spent more than half of her life locked up. "I don't want my kids to go through what I went through, so I try to make the changes now and my choices are so much better than they used to be. I think twice about everything I do," she told ABC7. One big decision was breaking free of her drug addictions. Signing up for this program was another.

The group "Working Partnerships" along with Santa Clara County's Office of Women's Policy is using federal grant money for pre-apprenticeship training. The goal is to get 12 women into good paying construction jobs, moving them from being a tax burden to a taxpayer. "It gives us an opportunity to not only be ourselves, to learn how to do something different that's going to better ourselves and our family, our children," Shatayia Payne said.

The five-day boot camp with hands-on training in Livermore is just one element of the workforce preparation. The majority of the eight-week program is actually classroom instruction with a variety of professionals giving the students the skills they need to succeed in any industry. The curriculum focuses on how to get a job and be a good employee.

There's also a healthy dose of motivation. "They're people who want to fit into society, be productive in our society. They have a huge skill base. If you just look at who they are now and work with who they are now," said training director Dan Smith. Smith says the building trades are always looking for qualified women and there is no question he's inspiring some new recruits. "I didn't have the direction. I didn't have the guidance and now, this program is giving me all that. So, I feel like the sky's the limit," Huerta said.

Indeed, some of the jobs could literally take the graduates to new heights.

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