ABC Baltimore Metro President and CEO Mike Henderson was recently invited to testify before a congressional subcommittee seeking answers on how to address declining employment among working-age men. He pointed to the chapter’s Project JumpStart, widely regarded as the most effective workforce development program of its kind in the region, as part of the solution. The program not only trains workers for high-paying careers in construction, but places graduates in professional jobs with dozens of area employers in commercial construction. 

Project JumpStart is an intensive, 89-hour, 13-week program designed to enable at-risk Baltimore residents enter a career in the skilled construction trades. Over the past decade, the program has graduated more than 1,000 residents and maintains a 75 percent job-placement record. In addition, nearly half of graduates are over the age of 35.

“We believe that there are thousands of men in their 30s and 40s who, give the right opportunity, can still make something out of their lives, gain a career and self-confidence and become contributing members of their community,”  Henderson told the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources. Graduates, 75 percent of whom are ex-offenders, “knew that Project JumpStart was their best and possibly last chance to succeed in this life.”

One of them is Tyrone Ferrens, who also testified before the subcommittee. Ferrens enrolled in Project JumpStart after 14 arrests, jail time and court-ordered rehab. “It instilled in me something I did not have; a sense of hope,” he said. “Every tool I needed to succeed was provided, not just physical tools, but a resume, mock interviews, conflict resolution skills, employer expectations and basic knowledge of tools. From any legal hurdle, to transportation issues, to a learning issue, Project JumpStart was there with a solution.”

Today Ferrens is a journeyman electrician and homeowner who has rebuilt his family.

Project JumpStart’s success has already been replicated at ABC’s Metro Washington and Ohio Valley chapters, with more pilot programs in the works.

ABC Greater Baltimore President and CEO Mike Henderson's testimony and Project Jumpstart Graduate Tyrone Ferrens' testimony are now available online.