ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Seven community members walked the stage at Veterans Memorial Hall on Wednesday for the “Workforce Development” graduation.
The program gives skills to people who otherwise might not have found the path on their own. It was three-plus months of learning how to work with concrete and going through the city to create and revitalize sidewalks.
It was an opportunity that not many expected to have, but are overjoyed to have completed.
“Everyone’s sharp, we looking good,” said graduate Andres Thompson. “It’s a good feeling right now.”
Thompson and six other graduated from the program run by the City of Rockford. Thompson would be the first to say that this program has opened opportunities that he never thought were possible.
“I didn’t know nothing about concrete. Like, I watch videos on concrete, but it’s what I actually got out there and how they did it,” Thompson said. “It was an experience at first. Like, it was hard, but I learned a lot.”
The seven community members had been laying down concrete for the past three-plus months, amounting to two miles of sidewalk throughout the city. It was in an effort to gain understanding of the field.
“It was amazing because you had to understand where they came from, you had to understand that he never did this before, and for them to not only to do this and that amount of time, but with the success of doing it,” said Pastor Albert “Tanks” Weathers, founder of the “Workforce Development.”
Weathers founded the program, creating something with the City of Rockford that they hope will continue to open doorways for those in the community. The City noted that the need for a workforce pipeline increases as new infrastructure rolls out.
“There’s more need for infrastructure reinvestment, and we identified that there is a gap in the workforce that’s able to actually construct those improvements,” said Kyle Saunders, director of public works for the City of Rockford. “So, we partnered with a local minority contractor. He engaged members from the community that are currently underrepresented in the construction industry, taught them a trade, gave them the foundation they need.”
It was not just skills taught, but also lifelong careers earned.
“A union representative have took everyone over tonight, so all of them have employment as of tonight,” Weathers said. “So, that’s how huge it was.”
Thirteen people have come in over the two-year span of the program, and 13 people now have jobs in the field.