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Opportunity Youth Learn High-Value Skills in Construction Trades

Students well positioned to earn $25 hourly wage

July 31, 2018

I have my mind made up that this will be the next four years of my life,” said Foster.Students in the San Diego Gateway to College and Career (SDG2CC) program are working with contractors in electrical, carpentry and plumbing to learn valuable, hands-on experience that will lead to living wage jobs in San Diego with the potential of earning $25 per hour.

The partnership is between San Diego Continuing Education’s (SDCE’s) SDG2CC program and the Southern California Youth Alliance and provides a paid internship that prepares students to enter and succeed in the construction industry.

Regional Labor Market Assessment for San Diego County prepared by Centers of Excellence predicts a 7% growth for construction occupations by 2020, which translates to 1,152 annual job openings and median hourly earnings of $25.60.

“The construction trades are in urgent need of qualified apprentices so we are creating a win-win for our students and the industry,” said Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., SDCE’s President.

The current job site for the SDG2CC student interns is an 18-unit apartment building being constructed on 53rd Street, south of El Cajon Blvd. As the construction project continues, students will work on heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; finished carpentry projects; stucco application, and installations of floors and windows.

“Students arrive ready to learn and work every day,” said Laurie Coskey, SDG2CC Program Director. Coskey credits the partnership between SDCE, the San Diego Youth Alliance and the San Diego Workforce Partnership for bringing students and job opportunities together in a way that strengthens chances of employment.

The internship program provides valuable hands-on paid work experience using industry tools on an actual job site. Training allows students to explore a career in a specific area (e.g. construction) and because SDG2CC has resources to provide industry-related tools and gear, case management and job search, students have increased chances for continued advancement following the internship.

“Buying the equipment would be prohibitive for the students,” said Coskey. “Plus these interns have completed OSHA and CPR trainings now so they are ready to move ahead.”

The internship itself, and the opportunity to be paid during the work experience, are significant benefits to SDG2CC students; however, students often have obstacles to face before they begin in an internship program.

Lakenya Rose Foster explains the SDG2CC internship program is helping her envision a long-term career for her and her two-year-old son.

“As an African-American female interested in carpentry, I feel empowered” she says. “There are only 1% of women in the trades as it is.”

Foster has helped put in decks on the third floor of the building; is learning about different measurements of wood; and now understands details such as using correct and different screws when installing metal to drywall, metal to metal and metal to wood.

“I have my mind made up that this will be the next four years of my life,” said the 23-year-old. “After graduation I will join the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters where I will complete my Journeyman License and my Associate Degree.”

Faculty Della Cole, is working in the classroom on math and reading comprehension as well as high school completion or equivalency to remove these additional barriers students would face when trying to enter into employment.

Students also benefit from support and individual case management. This became urgent the day Foster lost her childcare assistance from the county and her SDG2CC case worker was able to resolve the issue and resume the childcare within 24 hours so she could continue the internship.

“Growing up in foster care I came across a lot of people who were just doing their job. You can tell it's not like that here,” she said. “I joined SDG2CC for the internship and a chance I’ve been waiting for.”

Foster has also gained stable transportation and stable housing security since enrolling in SDG2CC.

SDG2CC will host a graduation for the internship students on August 4, 10-11 a.m. at SDCE’s Cesar Chavez Campus (1901 Main Street, SD, CA 92113). Foster and her fellow classmates are scheduled to share their positive experiences during the celebration. For interview opportunities contact Allura Garis

Community organizations, religious organizations, and businesses can meet social responsibility goals by sharing ideas and resources that help SDG2CC provide meaningful curriculum and employment opportunities for students. Individual donations to provide ongoing critical support for opportunity youth can also be made directly to SDG2CC. Contact the Program’s Executive Director, Laurie Coskey, Ed.D. at


Allura Garis