When 22-year-old Channing Tsosie graduated from high school, he didn’t have to look very far for inspiration about what to do with his life. Many of his family members are electricians back home on the reservation in Kayenta, Arizona, and he decided it’s what he wanted for his life as well. “I couldn’t get into college, so I thought I would be better off getting some vocational experience and then entering the workforce,” he said. To get that training, along with other invaluable life skills, he turned to the Fred G. Acosta Job Corps Center in Tucson.
Since 1979, the center has offered highly structured career and academic training programs for eight different vocations so that students receive the skills they need to succeed in today’s workforce – at no cost to them or their families. The goal for each student is to complete the training program in two years, and then either get a job, go to college, pursue advanced training, or join the military. “We work with these students to achieve these goals, and try to help them understand that education and training are the keys to being successful,” said Norvell Watson, Fred G. Acosta Job Corp Center Work Base Learning Coordinator. “Channing entered the facilities maintenance program since he had an interest in electrical wiring. His community back home is in the process of building a hospital, and he wants to work there. But he needed some exposure to what life is really like as an electrician at a big hospital.”
Part of the Job Corp training program includes hands-on experience. TMC is proud to be one of its newest partners, and provide students like Tsosie an opportunity to gain this valuable real-life knowledge. “We take being a community hospital very seriously. These kids are trying to make their lives better for themselves. We were impressed by the program, and I’m glad that we have the ability to help these students out on-site,” said Derrell Blair, TMC Plant Services Operations Manager.
The program was brought to Blair’s attention by TMC Plant Operator Mark Alonzo, who completed the program back in 1995. “It was a great benefit for me,” Alonzo said. “It helped me with vocational training, but other areas of my life as well, including public speaking. Job Corps helped me gain self-confidence. For me, it was better than college.” Alonzo started at TMC as a housekeeper five years ago, worked in maintenance, and is now working in the power plant. “The training they gave me back then really paid off in the long run. The stuff I learned in Job Corps helped me advance in this organization to where I am now,” he said. “I wanted to bring the program here as a way to pay it forward.”
Tsosie just wrapped up an internship he started at TMC around Thanksgiving in which he would shadow a TMC electrician three days a week. “Our electricians don’t do just electrical work,” said Blair. “They do a little bit of everything. We wanted Channing to understand that just because you’re an electrician at a hospital doesn’t mean you’re doing electrical work for eight hours a day – you’re doing a little bit of everything. We wanted to expose him to the real world.”
“My time at TMC has been really exciting,” said Tsosie. “I received experience here that will absolutely help me in the future. Job Corps has changed my life by helping me gain my work experience, and improve my communication. I’m looking forward to using all of this information back home,” he said.
A handful of other Job Corps students are now preparing to spend some time at TMC. “We will absolutely continue to partner with this program. It was great to see Channing trying to do better in his life, and take the skills he learned here back to his community hospital. It’s a small way we can give back,” said Blair.