Casa de Maryland offers job training in slow winter months

The winter months can be the most difficult time for some works. Hiring for labor-intensive jobs tend to slow down, but one local community group takes advantage of this time by offering training to improve skills and make prospects more employable.

Fabien Nguekam arrived to the U.S. in 2007 from Cameroon and struggled to find consistent work. But then he discovered services offered at Casa de Maryland. The group works with its community for job placement, training, and other resources.

“I don’t know what I would have done if Casa was not around,” he says.

Five years later he can list a number of skills that he learned by taking classes during the winter semester program.

“Drywall, basic electricity, plumbing,” he says.

“You give them a new set of skills that will allow them to get access to better jobs and wages,” says Tona Cravioto, a vocational training director at Casa de Maryland.

And Casa says it’s the ideal time to start the learning process.

“We take advantage of the winter because we know that many people are going to be laid off or they are not working,” he says.

On Tuesday, the group signed up dozens of people to start their six-month courses in a wide range of skills anywhere from dressmaking to landscaping. Prince George’s Community College and Montgomery College provide the curriculum and teachers.

Ana Maria Majilla wants to continue her training in electrical work.

“I haven’t seen that many women in this type of training and I feel very proud,” she says.

There are five different hands-on learning training centers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, plus Baltimore City. At the Hyattsville location, students focus on construction and building maintenance skills.

“Our target population is low-income people that do the labor kind of jobs,” says Cravioto.

With tuition just a fraction of what it would be at the community college and with basic gear to get started on the job, these tools offer hope for hundreds looking to build a future.