Construction Ready Played a Key Role in Jerome White’s Transformation Story

Jerome White is living proof that it’s never too late to have a career. An Atlanta native, Jerome was 59 when he graduated from CEFGA’s Construction Ready at Westside Work in March 2019. That came after years of struggle with substance abuse and time in minimum security correctional institutes.

Jerome says he always enjoyed working outside and working with his hands. Construction Ready gave him the formal training and certifications he was missing, and helped land him a job with Schnabel Foundation Company. After he completed that first project, the company didn’t have another assignment available right away, so Jerome went to work with Westside Beautification, a neighborhood improvement program administered by Integrity Transformations Community Development Corporation (ITCDC). In February 2020 he returned to Schnabel, a national design/build contractor specializing in earth retention systems and specialized foundations.

Here, in his own words, is Jerome’s story.

Where are you from?
I’m from Dixie Hills on [Atlanta’s] Westside. I still lives in the same neighborhood and the same home I grew up in.

Did you have any construction experience before enrolling in Construction Ready?
Yes. I’ve been in and out of construction for over 25 years. But I never did have any certifications. My biggest problem was passing background checks.

The formal training and credentials offered by Construction Ready helped give Jerome White a new lease on life.

How did you get connected to Construction Ready?
I was given the opportunity to enter a program at Hope Hall [an alcohol and drug treatment center]. I wanted to make a life change. That was my reasoning for trying to get in at Hope Hall. I wanted to turn my life around and become a productive member of society. While I was going through the treatment program, they had boards and fliers for people trying to find work, and I saw a one for Westside Works. I also knew Lamont Wise [Chief Programs Officer for ITCDC], and he explained that it might help my path to recovery. I took a chance and went for it.

How has Construction Ready helped change your life?
It was a game-changer for me. It was something that was really needed in my life. It’s helped me stay centered and structured. I was already familiar with some of the tools and what’s involved in working a construction job, but I never thought about making a real career out of it. To start focusing on having a career at my age, I know it’s kind of strange to wait this long to start getting certifications – but I had the chance to grab on to it, and I did.

How have you been able to continue learning since leaving Construction Ready?
I’ve also been through the Construction Ready PLUS course. I’m just taking in all the knowledge I can take in. I know I don’t have that much time left to be in construction, but while I can, I want to get what I can out of it. My future is beginning to look brighter with the knowledge I’ve gained from [both programs].

What advice would you give to someone who needs to make a change in their career – or their life in general – and may be considering an opportunity to go through Construction Ready?
My encouragement to someone younger than myself is that if you’re looking for a career in the construction industry, you will very much find it [through Construction Ready]. If you get an opportunity to get in a program like this, grab it and run with it. It can work, and it will work.

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