As Alexander Francis paused to watch the 20 thoroughbreds thunder down the homestretch at the 143rd Kentucky Derby last month, he couldn’t help but crack a wry grin. Two years ago, as he crossed the stage to receive his high school diploma a thousand miles away in Greeley, Colorado, he would have never imagined he would have the opportunity to witness one of America’s greatest horse races.
And even though he wasn’t at the race to celebrate, but instead as one of the thousands of security team members to protect nearly 160,000 fans on hand, he couldn’t help but to reflect as he starts on his career journey.
Francis was part of a small contingent of the students from the Carl D. Perkins Job Corps Center in Prestonsburg, Kentucky invited to assist with security at the annual event. He is nearing completion of a three-month advanced training program in security and protective services at the center – the only such program offered by Job Corps in the nation. For the 20-year-old Francis, the experience provided real on-the-job training.
“I’ve always been interested in pursuing a career in corrections,” said Francis. “The training I am receiving will help me build my resume and provide me the skills I need.”
The security and protective services advanced training program gives students professional development, physical training and certifications needed to allow graduates to differentiate themselves as highly marketable in the law enforcement and corrections career fields.
Francis feels his initial security and protective services training he received at a Job Corps center in Roswell, New Mexico, paired with his advanced training will propel him to his dream job as a corrections officer at the Weld County Jail, back in his home state.
“I have been in touch with a recruiter for the Weld County Sheriff’s Department and she was impressed with the certifications that I will receive through my Job Corps training,” he said. “The training I have received will put me above other people when applying for the job.”
His Job Corps instructor couldn’t agree more. She feels Francis has what it takes to be successful in landing a job and exceling in his chosen career path.
“Alex has a great work ethic and it shows,” said Beverly Compton, the center’s advanced training security and protective services instructor. “He’s definitely preparing himself for success.”
As he nears the end of his training, Francis knows it’s time to take the next step in realizing his dream of becoming a corrections officer, something he’s wanted since his high school graduation. To realize that dream, he has traveled nearly 1,800 miles and completed two training programs in two separate states. And now, he feels he is ready.
On June 7, Francis is scheduled to take a physical examination needed for a position with the sheriff’s department. Until then, he continues to reflect on the opportunities and training Job Corps has provided for him, as well as fond memories of applying that training at one of America’s most famous horse races.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and if not for Job Corps, I would have never had that experience.”
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.
Eric R. Lucero is a deputy director in the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Atlanta.