New Community Career & Technical Institute (NCCTI) hosted former Gov. James McGreevey and New Jersey Reentry Corporation for a press conference highlighting the partnership between the organizations, along with Sansone Automall and the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers (NJ CAR). Representatives from the groups gathered at the NCCTI Training Center, 210 West Bigelow St., Newark, Oct. 29 to talk about successes and how providing reentry clients an education in the automotive field can lead to lucrative careers and prevent recidivism.
McGreevey explained that New Jersey Reentry Corporation clients are eligible for Pre-Apprenticeship in Career Education (PACE) grants, which provide funding so they can receive the training needed prior to obtaining an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships often require a degree or other academic background, which can be a barrier for reentry clients.
“This pre-apprenticeship program is changing lives,” McGreevey said.
New Community CEO Richard Rohrman said partnering with New Jersey Reentry Corporation to provide training is a good fit for the organization.
“We’re thrilled to be part of this partnership. I think the core of our mission statement is dignity, it’s personal achievement and it’s really self reliance. And that’s what this program is all about,” he said. “We really appreciate being a part of it. It goes right to our mission.”
NCCTI Director Rodney Brutton said, “NCCTI is committed to providing opportunities for all our students and looks forward to working with our partners at NJRC.”
Current Automotive Technician student Darrell Armstrong said he went with the crowd in his younger years but now realizes the effects his actions can have on others and makes better choices.
“I thank New Community for the opportunity,” he said. “The program is what you make of it. Some people are going to take advantage of it. Some people are not. I’m taking advantage of it.”
Armstrong has started his own mobile brake company called Tuff Brakes and is looking forward to participating in an apprenticeship.
PACE Grant Program Manager Anthony Campisi said the grants are making a difference in the lives of New Jersey Reentry Corporation clients.
“You see the smile on their faces and the progress that we have made to help our clients,” he said. “I’ve never given up on anyone. And I will not give up on this client base.”
The education NCCTI students receive in the Automotive Technician program can lead to a number of positions in the industry. Esperanza Maldonado graduated from the Automotive Technician program and now works as a salesperson where she makes $120,000 per year.
She was in and out of prison and institutions from age 18 to 25. She entered the NCCTI Automotive Technician program after she was given the choice at a halfway house to either go to school or get a job. She chose school because she thought she would reoffend if she got a job.
“Education will open doors that no other thing can open for you. And this education right here, it opened the door that now, when I go to work I’m happy,” Maldonado said. “This school was the opportunity that will last a lifetime. I got skills in this school that nobody can take away from me. I can go anywhere in the country.”
Assemblywoman Shanique Speight said she has two brothers who have been incarcerated.
“What I see on your faces, I see hope. I see when you fell down, you got right back up and you kept on going. So thank you for your hard work,” she said.
Newark Deputy Mayor of Employment Rahaman Muhammad refers individuals to NCCTI for training. He said the students need to be serious about their education and share the positive experience with others.
“You have to commit to going out to your neighborhood to convince other people to come into this program. If it works for you, it’ll work for other people out there,” he said. “But it doesn’t work if you don’t complete it, if you don’t commit to it, if you don’t get it done.”
Chief Administrative Officer and Veteran Coordinator for Sansone Auto Group Rich Liebler, who helped start the Automotive Technician program with New Community and Ford Motor Company, explained that once NCCTI students complete some initial training, they are eligible to be part of Sansone’s apprenticeship program where they are assigned a master technician as their follow-up instructor. That individual guides them through the process of going from a starter technician to a master technician.
“I’ve got 35 individuals in the program at Sansone right now, 10 of which came from [NCCTI],” Liebler said.
NJ CAR Director of Automotive Workforce Development Breanna Datello Esquilin explained that she helps connect trained individuals to apprenticeships at the 514 new car dealers in the state with the goal of making sure those individuals remain in the field. The apprenticeships, made possible from the New Jersey Department of Labor Growing Apprenticeship in Nontraditional Sectors (GAINS) Grant, have a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
“We are trying to make it so that those first few years that you’re out in the workforce through apprenticeship, you stay in the workforce,” she said. “You don’t turnover and you don’t leave for another industry or in this case go back to a past life that you had that you don’t want to be in.”
New Jersey Reentry Corporation Employment Specialist Cynthia Rojas thanked NCCTI Automotive Technician Instructor John Zaccheus who she said serves as a mentor as well as an instructor to the students.
“They’re getting credentials, licenses that are nationally recognized to keep their career in this industry,” Rojas said. “And learning the skills that are going to keep them financially stable so they can stay out of the system.”
NCCTI is an accredited post-secondary career and technical institution that offers the following programs: Automotive Technician, Diesel Technician, Building Trades Specialist, Clinical Medical Assistant, Patient Care Technician, Community Healthcare Worker, Culinary Arts Specialist and Business and Computer Technologies. NCCTI also operates a comprehensive Financial Opportunity Center and Bridges to Career Opportunities Program sponsored by the local and national Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) offices. For more information, call 973-824-6484, log onto newcommunitytech.edu or visit 274 South Orange Ave., Newark.