Reflecting on Denver Green Jobs Initiative

For two years, Denver Green Jobs Initiative (DGJI) has trained Northeast Denver workers for great careers in energy efficiency, sustainable construction, and solar.
DGJI was a collaborative project, led by Mi Casa and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), to provide disadvantaged workers in Denver with new opportunities for career path employment. The project ended last month.

Though the green industry has not yet produced the volume of jobs once hoped for, DGJI was a huge success!

DGJI trained 513 workers, and of these, 206 were placed in full-time jobs. The project was recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as one of the most successful in 2010-11 for job-placement. As a result, DGJI program strategies were included in DOL’s “Promising Practices” resource guide for workforce development.

“There is a gap between the skills employers need and the skills most workers have,” says DGJI Project Manager Rick Lawton. “Denver Green Jobs Initiative was able to bridge that divide for individuals who face barriers to employment.”

Dan’nail is a great example. When he sought training at Denver Green Jobs Initiative, he was just a few months out of prison and living in a halfway house. With a felony record and no transportation, Dan’nail applied for many jobs related to his skills in landscaping and warehouse operations, but he didn’t get any calls back.

Dan’nail is 35 years old, a native of Northeast Denver. He says he started getting into trouble in middle school and by the time he was 20 he was on probation. Dan’nail cycled in and out of prison until he was 33, serving seven years total.

At first Dan’nail’s halfway house was reluctant to let him enroll in training, since immediate employment is preferred. But Dan’nail’s case manager at DGJI advocated for him and convinced his halfway house to allow Dan’nail time to complete DGJI’s pre-apprenticeship program.

Dan’nail completed the pre-apprenticeship offered by the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers. The union identified Dan’nail as one of their top students, and he moved up the ranks quickly with his eagerness to learn and dexterity with his hands. Within 60 days, Dan’nail was sworn in to the union.

“They don’t look at a man for what he’s done,” Dan’nail says. “They look at a man for what he does, and I am not going to waste this opportunity.”

Dan’nail is currently working as a second-year apprentice Pipe Insulator earning nearly $21 per hour with full benefits, up from his starting wage of $18. Dan’nail will become a Journeyman Insulator in May 2013.

After his release from prison, Dan’nail knew he was ready to work toward a career and a more stable life, and he credits DGJI for giving him that opportuntiy. “Outside of my family and my support system, this program saved me.”

Dan’nail’s goal is to continue learning and building his skills so he will never have trouble finding work again. He also wants to be a role model for his two children, ages 13 and 18. Dan’nail hopes his kids can learn from his mistakes and that he can help them find their own opportunities for personal and professional success.

Though DGJI training has concluded, Mi Casa continues to focus on Career Development as a central strategy to achieve our mission of economic success.

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