After more than a decade in and out of prison on drug charges, Raymond Hecker is determined to find his way, but navigating the job market with a criminal record can be difficult.
“When you lose a lot of time in your life, you got to know where to begin,” said Hecker. “You don’t want to dwell on the fact that you did time, you want to move past that."
As a graduate of the Doe Fund, which runs programs for homeless and formerly incarcerated men, Hecker has found steady work as a senior house manager for now, but he’s putting his hopes for the future in training by learning skills to enter the construction industry as a welder.
“Everybody wants a job with a union pay, a 401k, a retirement plan, that’s the main goal. The main goal is to make sure that you’re established,” said Hecker.
The Doe Fund offers certification training through a partnership with the New York City Employment and Training Coalition. It’s part of a broader effort to create a pipeline to construction careers for men rebuilding their lives.
“Employers can get the skills that they need from their employees and employees can get jobs that have really clear career trajectory,” said Jennifer Mitchell, the Doe Fund’s chief executive officer.
The hope is that training participants in skilled work will help them find opportunities with growth potential. According to the organization, trainees can expect to earn between $25 to $27 per hour as a starting salary.
“In this city, a city that is increasingly difficult to afford, there’s a lot of need for entry point opportunities, second act careers, re-skilling, up-skilling and trade opportunities just like this,” said Gregory Morris, chief executive officer of NYC Employment and Training Coalition.
A graduation ceremony held this month marked the end of the program for the latest participants who are hoping to enter the industry as skilled tradesmen.
As a father, Heckler is hoping to set an example for his 3-year-old son, by being ready to make the most of any opportunities the certification brings his way.
“[That’s] because I know there’s a foundation that needs to be laid. I don’t want my child looking at me any different than what he does now. When he gets older he’s going to know that I paved the way for him,” said Hecker.