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What's Right With Our Schools: Lawson State welding program

Updated: Dec. 15, 2016 at 4:14 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A chance at a new life. That's what Lawson State Community College is offering at its Bessemer Campus.

It's a free program funded through the Governor's Workforce Development office.

Tommy Hobbs is assistant dean of Workforce Development for Lawson State.

"In five weeks, we take students from the various shelters in Birmingham and run them through a five-week program where they are here Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and they get training, short-term training, in welding and electrical," Hobbs explained.

It's already changing lives. Hobbs says about 100 have gone through the program.

Kimberly Meadows Clark, who is with the Firehouse Shelter, just one of the homeless shelters that benefits from the program, said the welding and electrical training is more important now than ever especially because her clients are starting out homeless now much younger.

"When we started this program five years ago, I would have said gentlemen between the ages of 25 and older. But within the last couple of years, we're seeing younger gentlemen. Now we are saying 18 and older. They are aging out of foster care and having to come to the shelter with no skills," Clark said.

The program promises young men who complete the five weeks an entry level job making at least $15 per hour.

Clark said a young man who went through the program told another young man who was addicted to drugs about it and he wasn't impressed until he could see his paystub.

"He was saying, 'you don't make any money. I want to see your check stub,' and the guy showed him his pay stub and he was like, 'this is worth me cleaning up my life up and you are telling me I can go do this Ms. Kim?'" Clark said.

"'I can get a wife,' he said, 'I can have kids and I can support my family.' And we want everyone to have that vision as well," Clark said he went on to tell her.

Chris Conners said he's been living in a homeless shelter for several months now and is almost finished with the five-week program.

"I just want a great life, enjoy life, be happy and not have to sweat the small stuff every day," Conners said.

Now he is well on his way.

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