Westhab’s Career Pathways program, funded by the Workforce Funders Collaborative at the Westchester Community Foundation, is preparing 90 Westchester residents for careers in construction.
It’s not an uncommon story to feel lost in your 20s—to be uncertain of how you fit into the world. But by your late-20s, society expects you to know where you’re headed. For 28-year-old Yonkers native Raymond Taylor, finding his career path has been a challenge. He attended college, but found himself unhappy in the career that his major led him to, unfulfilled by the traditional 9 to 5 desk job, and struggling to foster the financial success he strived for. He was stuck, and unsure of what to do next. Taylor dabbled in a few fields, even earning his real estate license back in 2015—still, nothing fit. But when a friend told Taylor about Westhab’s Career Pathways program, he was intrigued. Westhab developed the Career Pathways program to prepare 90 Westchester residents for careers in construction and provide program participants with the tools to compete in the job market. With funding and support from the Workforce Funders Collaborative at the Westchester Community Foundation, the pilot program kicked off in July of 2020. Excited by a career that offered competitive wages, upward mobility, and an active day-to-day, Taylor joined the program’s first group of participants.
The Career Pathways program provides hard skills training and job-readiness services to low-income individuals residing primarily in lower Westchester County who face barriers to economic mobility. The goal of the program is to enable participants to work in jobs that offer opportunities for career growth and, ultimately, financial independence. Taylor was especially thrilled to acquire skills like resume building and interviewing during Westhab’s job readiness training—skills that he was never taught in school. More than anything, he appreciated how involved the program coordinators were, saying, “You could really tell that they were passionate about their work, and I definitely would do it all again if I had the opportunity to.”
Today, Taylor is employed with multiple moving companies as a truck driver and also works in construction on a regular basis. He was recently invited to apply for a union job for a local construction company, offering a starting wage of between $40 and $42 an hour. Taylor is excited about the opportunity and is determined to help other participants of the program find high-paying union work as well.
After completing the program, Westhab provided Taylor and his peers with a “construction care package” which included a hard hat, vest, gloves, and a tool bag. Construction companies usually expect workers to have their own equipment, which can be a barrier to those coming out of a period of unemployment and trying to begin their careers. By already having the necessary equipment, Taylor says he’s “more likely to get the job because there are less things [the employer] has to worry about.” Taylor believes that he is a strong contender for the union role because of the equipment, confidence, and certifications that Westhab provided through the Career Pathways program.
Raymond Taylor is looking towards the future. He recently started investing in the stock market, and is saving up to buy his first property this summer. He sees the potential for a long-term career in construction, and looks forward to continuing to learn new skills and move up in the field. Taylor says that “It’s a wonderful thing that Westhab is doing, and it’s going to help a lot of people.”
As for the Career Pathways program, it is moving forward as well. A new cohort of participants begins training at the end of January, and, by the time the pilot program culminates in June of 2021, the goal of the program’s coordinators is to see all 90 participants flourishing in their new careers.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy, with the U.S. unemployment rate reaching a record 14.7 percent in April of 2020. People of all ages and backgrounds have found themselves unemployed, and in search of a job, any job, to survive. The Career Pathways program provides a direct route to an industry that offers more than just a job—it offers a career. The construction sector is thriving in Westchester County as the area benefits from increased investment. Westhab’s employment services team took advantage of the growing workforce needs of the construction sector to meet the urgent needs of the community. To support Westhab in building communities and changing lives with programs like Career Pathways, scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up for our emails and receive the latest information on volunteer opportunities, follow along on Facebook and Twitter, or click here to donate.