BLOG: Job Corps Student Finds Success in the Denver Workforce
May 30, 2018
Amber Knight, a Job Corps graduate, is living, working and setting a great example here in Denver. She was born in a small town in Montana but spent most of her young life moving from place to place with her family. She was always playing catch up and found it hard to make or keep friends.
Despite her situation, she graduated high school, but wasn’t doing anything with her life afterward. Like many kids at that age she lacked direction. Her step dad, a security guard for the Wind River Job Corps center in Wyoming, suggested she attend the program. She was reluctant at first and stalled for three months before she made the commitment to join Job Corps, but now she is so thankful she did.
Amber said, “It changed the direction of my life.”
Job Corps is a government-funded program for students ages 16-24. It offers free vocational training, high school education (if needed), as well as free lodging, three meals a day, basic medical coverage and a year of career placement services for those who graduate. Job Corps expects a lot from its students in exchange for free education and lodging. There are rules, chores and high expectations, but also a lot of fun.
While attending Job Corps, Amber studied heavy equipment operation. When asked why she chose that trade her voice filled with excitement.
“It looked fun! The machines were big versions of the toys I played with as a kid,” she said.
Amber also learned how to communicate with her peers and support staff while at Job Corps. It wasn’t easy for her, but she said the Resident Advisors were very open and available to talk whenever she needed them. They keep a close eye on the students and Amber said, “Every time they checked up on me I would think, ‘Snap! I better shape up’.”
Amber speaks very highly of her instructors as well. She is so grateful for the way in which they encouraged her and kept her focused. Particularly Phillip Cornella, the lead instructor at Wind River Job Corps. Phillip had nothing but high praise for Amber, saying, “I was impressed by Amber’s work ethic and ability to learn. She has continued her success from Job Corps to the workplace and I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
As soon as Amber finished her training at Wind River Job Corps, she was hired as a Heavy Equipment Operator for Michels, one of the largest construction companies in the country.
Gary Edmondson, who runs the Colorado Journeyman and Apprentice Training Program in Colorado, said, “The construction industry is very competitive and when you send someone to a contractor like Michels, you want to make sure it is a person that is dependable and hard-working. That’s why I like the students from job Corps.”
I asked Amber what advice she would give to a young person that is lacking direction, feeling lost about their future, or maybe for whom college isn’t an option. She recommended job corps all the way.
“It helps you put your mind in the right place, and when you graduate and get a job, it feels awesome,” she said.
Amber loves what she is doing and the crew members at Michels are very fond of her. “They take the time to teach me and make me feel like family. It’s great.” Amber says.
Her manager, Victor Molla said, “Amber is my strong hold. She is a natural-born leader and she drives people. I’ve never seen a young kid with her kind of strong work ethic. We always look forward to seeing her.”
Amber’s family is very proud of her, too. She wants to be a good example for her siblings and hopes her success will influence them in the choices they make.
Last February was an indicator of the success to come. Amber was selected to represent her Job Corps center alongside Wyoming Gov. Matt Meed, to kick off National Apprenticeship week. She felt very flattered and had never been acknowledged like that before. She said, “Being chosen because of how great I am doing made me very proud of myself. My hard work paid off.”
Amber hopes to encourage youth like herself. She wants them to see she’s just like them and they can do it too.
All of us at the Wind River OA/CTS Lakewood Job Corps office look forward to working with Amber to spread the word about Job Corps and how it can make the difference in a young person’s life, and in our community.
If you know of a young person that could benefit from the Job Corps program, please contact Job Corps at (800)733-JOBS or find us online at www.jobcorps.gov.