While in high school, Josiah Hernandez came to a difficult crossroads in his young life. Twenty credits short of graduation and struggling with academic and self discipline, he dropped out. Just a few months later, in search of direction, he found the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps program.
Job Corps was a second chance for Josiah. He used it to set his life on a path toward prosperity.
Since 1964, the program has provided no-cost education and vocational training to help youth ages 16 through 24 prepare for stable, long-term and high-paying jobs. At the Atterbury Job Corps Center in Edinburgh, Indiana, Josiah was accepted into the center’s residential program. First, he completed the requirements to earn his high school diploma. Then, he entered the center’s carpentry program and graduated in 2015.
“Job Corps worked for me because the classrooms were smaller and it gave the instructors time to work one-on-one with me. That was better for my learning style,” he said. “The program also helped me develop organization skills and a work ethic.”
Today, the 21-year-old is working as a second-year union carpenter’s apprentice in Wheatfield.
“What I love most about being a carpenter is working with my hands, seeing my projects completed and being able to say that, ‘I did that’,” Josiah said. “It’s a good feeling. I never thought I would have this good of a job, at such a young age.”
His job has given him a great place to start his career. The annual mean wage in Indiana for a union carpenter is close to $42,000, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Josiah now earns $24 an hour. He plans to earn his journeyman carpenter’s certificate and continue in the field.
“My family is very proud and happy that I found the Job Corps training. With my wages, I am able to help my mom and siblings. That is a good feeling,” he said. “I have referred four of my friends to Job Corps, and they are doing well now too. Our lives might have turned out very differently without Job Corps. I believe that what you put into the program is what you will get out of it. The instructors are hands-on and patient. They will help you succeed, if you work hard.”
Today, there are more than 500,000 apprentices nationwide, and more apprenticeship opportunities are added almost daily. These earn-while-you-learn training programs provide a clear career path forward through new skills, higher wages and opportunities for advancement. Learn more about apprenticeship at www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.
Rhonda Burke is deputy director in the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Chicago.
Editor’s note:The “DOL Working for You” series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other blog posts in the series here.