In Month 3 of the More than a Counselor blog series, Holly Hanson, career counselor and job developer for JobTrain’s construction training programs, Project Build and Laborers Construction Fundamentals, speaks to her work with a student who previously attended community college.
As the counselor that works with students learning the trade in an industry considered non-traditional in Silicon Valley, I generally see the same type of individuals – those who didn’t follow a traditional path in life, according to society’s rules. Then one day I met with a new student, Tony, who was interested in the construction courses at JobTrain and yet had previously been following a more traditional track.
Tony wasn’t like one of my typical students upon first impression. He was only 19 when I met him (but mature for his age), a high school graduate and had no criminal background. When I asked him why he wanted to be in construction, this is the story he told me: “I was raised by my sister who always kept me on the right path in life, always telling me that I need to be the first in my family to go to college.” So he did. Right after high school graduation, Tony enrolled in community college. However, one year into college, his sister fell on hard times and couldn’t provide the stable living environment he needed to succeed in college. Tony essentially became homeless, moving from one couch to the next. He knew he had to find a way to earn a living because now it was “my turn to care for my sister”. He needed to put college on hold for now and find a fast track to a solid career. His friend suggested JobTrain and I told him he came to the right place.
Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression that this young man shouldn’t go to college. However sometimes the path to success is not in the order you expect it to be. I sat down with Tony to create a career path that would start in construction and lead him back to college. Today, he is on his re-directed path to success – working a union construction job, supporting his sister and pursuing construction management courses in the evening. He checks in regularly with me and tells me all the exciting and challenging things that are going on in his life. When I tell him that I will always help him if he gets stuck along the way, he says “I know – you’re like my sister.”