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If there’s anything we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that life can be tough. Access to gainful employment, affordable housing, and quality healthcare are just a few examples of the basic needs that have become difficult to achieve this year for so many Americans. These needs are even scarcer for people experiencing homelessness and people struggling with addiction.  

The Gulf Coast Chapter of Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) along with IBEW Local 136 are tackling this issue head-on by providing an opportunity to a career in construction through a unique partnership with a local Birmingham, Alabama-based non-profit organization.

Together with Brother Bryan’s Mission – an organization that aids men in the area who need assistance getting back on their feet due to addiction – ‘The Shelter Program’ is for those with a desire and the will to change the chance to gain work experience, new electrical skills, and a positive path towards recovery with a meaningful new career.

Five years ago, Gulf Coast NECA Regional Director Andrew Varvoutis and the IBEW Local 136 thought outside the box, to find people who they thought might be ready to take part in this pilot program and made it their mission to find them. 

While the homelessness population might not be an ideal recruiting ground for some, for the Powering-America Team of NECA and the IBEW the early results have been positive on both ends. 

For Matthew Dudley, NECA/IBEW Training Director in Birmingham, he felt strongly that the at-risk population deserved a chance to have a fulfilling career in construction, despite any previous mistakes they had made in life. 

Take John Hancock for example; a 5th-year apprentice who began his journey with the help of The Shelter Program. He was added to construction projects that were a walkable distance from The Mission, and as time went on, John was able to learn valuable electrical skills, while also getting back on his feet. 

And for Robert Dowdy, who is also a 5th year apprentice, he overcame drug addiction with the help of the Shelter Program and is now a father and a well respected soon to be journeyman. His advice for others to come, “It’s really easy to do what you have always done, the hardest thing in the world is to change.” 

The path to recovery for an addict isn’t always a straight line, but with The Shelter Program and the Powering-America Team of NECA and the IBEW, the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally has helped John and Robert, and many others in their shoes. The Powering America team of NECA and the IBEW provides a chance at a career in construction, an offer of a lifetime, regardless of your background. All that’s needed is the willingness to accept the challenge and rise above.