The Back to Work program is changing lives for the better in Downtown Yonkers. Thanks to generous funding from TD Charitable Foundation, Back to Work empowers underemployed and unemployed individuals by helping them gain the skills necessary to find and maintain employment in the construction industry. Dayspring is launching its third cohort of the employment program, which will serve 120 individuals across six cohorts in just eighteen months.
The COVID-19 pandemic left already vulnerable populations, including low- to moderate-income individuals, people experiencing homelessness, and people with criminal justice involvement, out of work. Along with our partners at TD Charitable Foundation, Westhab understands that employment is a critical step in gaining independence and achieving housing stability.
Back to Work program graduate Maria was born and raised in Yonkers and lives in Nodine Hill. She longed for a career change when she saw a flyer advertising the Back to Work program in her apartment building lobby. The program offered free employment training and certifications for the construction industry, normally costing hundreds of dollars each. Seeing her opportunity, she applied and was accepted. Maria was immediately impressed with what the program had to offer. She says, “I just thought it would be the OSHA 30 and Site Safety training, but once I got into the classes and they gave us everything else, I felt I was almost overqualified by the end! I can see myself being in this field for a long time.”
The program, which takes place at the brand-new Dayspring Community Center, combines job-readiness training, occupational skills training, and job placement/retention services in the construction industry. Throughout all phases of the program, Westhab’s employment services team works with our employer partners to connect them with Dayspring Back to Work program job candidates. Maria felt prepared to enter the work site after her training, but she seemed most impressed with the job readiness portion of the course. “Job readiness was the best part of the whole process. These training sessions prepare you for the construction field and real life with employers and coworkers. For anyone who might have some anxiety about interviewing or being in the workplace, this was so helpful.”
The program is making a real impact in the Nodine Hill community, where Maria says, “There are a lot of Westhab trainees! I have met many people who received help from Westhab, near Bashford (Westhab’s local HQ) and throughout the Nodine Hill area, and I tell anyone who will listen to go to Dayspring!”
This is not Maria’s first time being served by Westhab either. Her family lived in Westhab housing, and she is a current resident of Dayspring Commons–63 units of Westhab supportive and affordable housing built alongside the community center. Her children also attend the Dayspring after-school program. Maria is a prime example of how the Dayspring Campus and its Back to Work program are transforming lives in the Nodine Hill community and paving the path to independence for our clients.
As for the future, Maria is more optimistic than ever for herself and her local community. Using her networking contacts from the training, she linked up with a fellow participant and already worked her first job in demolition. With the construction industry in Westchester expected to grow even further in the next few years, Maria is thinking of opening a business of her own one day. And she has this piece of advice for any women who are thinking about a career in construction. “If anyone says you can’t do a hard labor job, that it’s a ‘man’s job,’ step your foot into that job. And there are so many more fields than a laborer. The training showed me just how wide the construction field is and that the field is changing. Our cohort was half women. You can do it!”