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Training Programs Offers Second Chance

After 34-year-old Richmond resident Michael Cheatham completed an addiction treatment program for heroin and cocaine, he landed a job working at a local produce warehouse. He appreciated the job, but couldn’t help feeling like he wanted something more fulfilling.

“I wanted something better, something like a career,” he said. “Then I heard about this opportunity coming up through VCU about how to work in construction and I thought, ‘That’s the career change for me.’”

Cheatham is one of 14 men who took part in a pilot program called Quick Start Construction Training that is teaching the basics of construction work to Richmond residents who have struggled with addiction, homelessness and incarceration in order to give them a new opportunity and career, while also funneling trained workers to the state and local construction industry.

“We’re teaching them basic construction 101,” said Richard F. Sliwoski, associate vice president of Facilities Management at Virginia Commonwealth University, who came up with the idea for the program and organized a grassroots coalition that includes VCU, the VCU Health System, construction industry associations, the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office and the nonprofit organization CARITAS. “The goal is jobs. But, in a bigger sense, it’s about breaking the chain of poverty and giving hope to people.”

The Division of Community Engagement is providing evaluation assistance for this program.

Read the full VCU News article.