Training Workers for Family-Sustaining Jobs


Luis Garcia came to the United States from Guatemala in 1990 and found good work in the Boston area, mostly with moving companies. He met and married his wife, who gave birth to their daughter. Life was good—until everything started to fall apart. Garcia was laid off and, as a result, lost his apartment. He, his wife and their daughter were forced to live apart. “I always worked,” he says, “and to be out of work and away from my family was very, very hard.”

But Garcia’s life began to turn around when he learned about the Building Energy Efficient Maintenance Skills (BEEMS) program run by the Asian American Civic Association (AACA), and supported by SkillWorks, a public/private partnership between the Boston Foundation and the City of Boston. A 22-week program, BEEMS trains participants for careers as maintenance workers and engineers—jobs that start with hourly wages as high as $20 and can increase to $40 an hour or more if the worker joins a union. Participants learn the basics of maintenance, from appliance repair to painting and carpentry, as well as math and computer skills.

After Garcia completed the program, AACA staff helped him find a maintenance job with Florence Apartments in Roslindale. He takes such good care of the property that he rarely gets after-hours calls. “I can’t believe it,” says Garcia. “I have a job. We have a two-bedroom apartment and life is so good.” It is clear, however, when you meet Luis Garcia, that luck has less to do with his good fortune than participation in a great training program and his own very powerful work ethic.

SkillWorks was launched by the Boston Foundation in 2003 through a major partnership with national and local funders. Today, it is the largest workforce development initiative in Boston’s history and has become a model for cities across the country and for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. With investments from the Boston Foundation, the City of Boston, Bank of America and other funders, it aims to train low-skill, low-to-moderate income people so that they can move to family-sustaining jobs and help employers find and retain skilled workers.