ATLANTIC CITY - The first class of 26 city residents graduated from the Atlantic City Infrastructure Program on Thursday in a ceremony at Stockton University's city campus, and will now interview for jobs in the energy field.
"I saw this was an avenue to build a foundation for my family," said JaVonn Parrish, 29, who said he has worked for years in the food service industry. "I jumped on it."
While he doesn't have any children yet, he said, getting started in a utility career will give him the stability he needs to consider it.
The program is a joint effort between the city and Atlantic City Electric.
"Through this program these individuals were given an opportunity they may not otherwise have had to better their lives, and they grabbed the bull by the horn," said Mayor Marty Small Sr. "This was an intense course that required hard work and dedication."
Parrish was in the class with his best friend from childhood, Lamont Carson, 29, whose jobs have previously involved working with kids, including at the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.
Both Carson and Parrish said they would like to become utility linemen who keep electrical lines humming.
They had the same teachers from kindergarten through middle school, the two said. Now they are pursuing the same line of work together.
"We have both been working since we were 14," Parrish said.
Carson has a 2-year-old daughter, he said, and his mom recently moved in with him after a difficult year. The training and potential new job are coming at a time when he and his family really need it, Carson said.
Marisol Gonzalez was one of four women in the class, she said at graduation. She and other graduates promised to keep the public updated on what jobs they are offered, and which ones they accept.
The graduates will be qualified for many jobs, including overhead helper, underground distribution, project management and meter maintenance.
All participants are getting the chance to interview and receive offers for full-time employment with either Atlantic City Electric or one of its hiring partners, said Candice Womer, Exelon Holdings senior communications specialist.
Exelon is the parent company of Atlantic City Electric.
Hiring partners include electrical union IBEW Local 351 and Local 210, Contract Callers Inc., ExecuPOWER, Resource Asset Management Solutions and Asplundh.
"We are focused on helping every graduate secure an opportunity for a career in the energy field," Womer said.
The goal is to have two training sessions a year of at least 15 participants per cohort. The next date has not been set, Womer said.
"I look forward to our continued work with the City of Atlantic City and ... (driving) real social equity for the residents of Atlantic City," said Tyler Anthony, president and CEO of Pepco Holdings. Exelon also is the parent company of Pepco.
Participants began a 14-week program Nov. 1 and attended three-hour training sessions two days a week at the Carnegie Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to Exelon. They also used the Atlantic City Electric utility training yard at the Anthony "Tony" Canale Training Center in Egg Harbor Township.
Program education was provided by Atlantic Cape Community College and the Atlantic County Workforce Development Board.
Small announced the job training in September. He said the jobs for which residents will be trained will pay $25 to $40 per hour.
All graduates took the CAST (Construction and Skilled Trades) test, Womer said, and those who passed can be considered for working with electrical lines. Those who did not pass it will still receive an interview opportunity in an area where the CAST test is not required, she said.
Small said he decided to pursue the program for Atlantic City after hearing of a similar program called the D.C. Infrastructure Academy run by Pepco in the nation's capital.
Atlantic City residents interested in participating in the next Atlantic City Infrastructure Program class can contact Rachele Dorsey at email@example.com.
REPORTER: Michelle Brunetti Post609firstname.lastname@example.org