Partnership provides jobs and homes for underprivileged Oklahomans
A newly formed collaboration among Oklahoma CareerTech and several state and local organizations means help is on the way once again for some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable residents.
Low-income homeowners in Oklahoma have been disproportionately affected by extreme weather events over the past few years. Since 2000, severe weather that caused significant property damage has resulted in 37 presidential emergency declarations. Many of the affected homeowners cannot afford to make the repairs needed to make their homes habitable and safe.
A nonprofit organization called Recovering Oklahomans After Disaster Inc. provides free home repairs to disaster survivors who cannot recover on their own. ROAD provides project management to oversee volunteers who make needed repairs. With the COVID-19 pandemic, those volunteer groups are unavailable. In 2020, ROAD looked outside the box to develop a different kind of volunteer labor.
Under its new Vocational Training Apprenticeship Program, ROAD collaborated with Green Country Workforce, Oklahoma CareerTech and the Galt Foundation, a nonprofit employment company, to create an innovative pilot home repair program. This collaboration facilitates much-needed home repairs for struggling homeowners and also provides training and job experience for individuals who have barriers to employment.
“We knew we couldn’t wait for the pandemic to end before we helped those who needed home repairs. This program brings a new kind of labor into disaster work, with great outcomes for all those involved,” said Chad Detwiler, president and CEO of ROAD.
For the pilot program, Green Country Workforce (formerly Workforce Tulsa) recruited six individuals from a pool of participants in its program. The Galt Foundation served as the employer of record for the paid apprenticeships, providing general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
Matt Litterell, director of business and industry services at Tulsa Technology Center, one of Oklahoma CareerTech’s 29 tech center districts, said the school provided classroom space as well as competency certification in each of the construction disciplines included in ROAD’s apprenticeship training.
“We provided OSHA 10 and forklift training,” Litterell said. “ROAD provided additional classroom instruction, including basic tools use and safety.”
After two weeks of classroom training, participants began on-the-job training, repairing the homes of disaster survivors. They learned roofing, drywall, insulation, flooring, siding, trim, painting and fixture installation.
“This program is a win-win for all partners involved, while providing a skilled workforce for employers,” said Oklahoma CareerTech Director Marcie Mack.
Career Tech’s Skills Centers instructors spent several days outfitting one of ROAD’s new tool trailers with shelving to keep the tools secure and organized en route to the project sites. The CareerTech printing plant created a wrap for the trailer.
Wesley Mitchell of Green Country Workforce said the pilot has been a resounding success, and the program was designed to be replicated statewide.
“We’re looking to expand the program,” he said. “Expansion to the Northeast Workforce Board is under development.”
Detwiler added, “The program design will lend itself to working with other agencies, and we are excited to see where it will lead.”