Meet James

Workforce ChallengePhoto of James

James Knight earned his high school diploma from Achievement Academy at Harbor City High School in 2011. “Then I fell into a real rough patch and I wasted a year running the streets and just hanging around. I had lost my dad in 2009 and life just hit me all at once. I wasn’t able to cope with it all,” James shared.

In June of 2012 James’ daughter was born and he realized, “It was time for me to be a man. When she was born it was a new game for me.”

James worked at a fast food restaurant for a while and then got a job in a warehouse where he worked for about six months. Next he took a position at UPS, where he went from temporary seasonal work as a driver’s helper to a permanent warehouse package handler. He and his family had moved to Columbia, Maryland and things were fine, until he moved back to Baltimore. “I was back on the streets again, maintaining my situation but not moving ahead,” James said.

Workforce Solution

James then heard about the Youth Build program, operated by Civic Works and funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act youth grant managed by the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. Youth Build provides job readiness skills, on-site construction training experience and apprenticeship opportunities. James attended an information session at Baltimore City College High School, applied for the popular program and was accepted in March 2016. “I applied three times before I finally got in. You have to have a lot of patience. When you want it bad enough you have to do whatever it takes to get it,” James said.

After his interview he was referred to a Mental Toughness Training. “That experience changed my life,” James said. “It opened my mind to a different way of seeing things. In one exercise we all had to rate ourselves on a scale of one to ten. I answered two. Our instructor said that was the answer he expected, but that we were all really closer to ten. He broke it down and the way he broke it down was a way I could finally hear.”

Outcomes & Benefits

James is now employed by Cities for All Ages, a short-term apprenticeship program operated by Civic Works. Cities for All Ages makes homes safer for Baltimore senior citizens over the age of 65 by making safety repairs, adding railings and installing handicap ramps. James learned how to work with drywall and gained carpentry, painting and tile replacement skills. James has received several certifications including OSHA 10, Sherwin Williams HomeWork Painters Training and a nationally-recognized Home Builders Institute credential from the National Association of Homebuilders.  

James dreams of one day building a house from the ground up, and he wants to work for a contractor and make good money. “Right now it’s not about the money – it’s about getting what I need from this program and meeting my goals,” James said. “Where do I see myself in five years? In a happy state of mind.”

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