After Amir Freeman graduated from Academy Charter School, an institution for court-adjudicated adolescents, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. Then, after some gentle prodding from his mother, Freeman enrolled in the Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s RISE job-training and employment-assistance program.

“I was just finishing up high school, looking into going back to school and trying to find a job,” said Freeman, a 19-year-old Hill District resident. “They helped me get my first job and they helped me make a resume. I learned new things and was able to experience new things.”

The RISE Project, which stands for reentry through industry specific education, is a pre-apprenticeship construction-training and facilities maintenance program for youth ages 17 to 21. It is designed to help those who have employment barriers.

Over the course of eight to 10 weeks participants receive work-based training combined with vocational and academic skills training that includes job readiness, employability skills, career development, life skills and on-the-job training. Focus areas include carpentry, electrical, plumbing, brick masonry, landscaping, facilities maintenance, painting, green building and weatherization.

“I am currently working now and doing good,” said Freeman. “It taught me a lot. I learned how to do plastering and electrical work, and landscaping. I’m not really interested in the construction, but I’m interested in doing maintenance. I think if I was to get a job doing something with that training it would benefit me.”

Freeman, who completed the program over the course of four months said he has applied for jobs in facilities maintenance, but has not heard back from any employers. He currently works in security.

Sixteen participants have received the Home Builder’s Institute Pre-Apprentice Certification through the program and 14 are currently employed. Nationally, Home Builder’s Institute programs boast an 80 percent job- placement rate for graduates

Now Goodwill is looking for candidates for the second year of the RISE program. Entry is open to youth living in the Hill District, Garfield, Northview Heights, McKeesport, Homestead, Braddock, East Pittsburgh, East Hills and Duquesne.

Applicants do not need a high school diploma or GED and can receive GED preparation classes. The program also provides counseling, case management, job placement assistance, paid and unpaid work experience, free lunches, a paid stipend and bus passes during the training. Participants also receive a set of tools upon completion of the program.

The program was created using the Home Builder’s Institute’s PACT curriculum, which is used nationally to provide career training in the building industry to youth, veterans, ex-offenders and displaced workers.

The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, Allegheny County Juvenile Probation, and the Pennsylvania Career Technical Training Alliance are also working with Goodwill to identify candidates and facilitate the program.


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