Mayor Emanuel, Congressman Rush and CTA President Claypool Announce Expanded Second Chance Program

March 27, 2015

Program Has Provided Job Training For More Than 500 Ex-Offenders Who Face Barriers To Employment; New Training To Offer Pipeline To Middle-Class Jobs In High-Demand Field Of Diesel Mechanics

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Bobby Rush and CTA President Forrest Claypool today announced that CTA will expand its successful Second Chance program, which provides valuable job skills and career opportunities to Chicago residents who often face challenges re-entering the workforce.  

Beginning next month, the Second Chance Program, offered to ex-offenders and victims of abuse and others, will offer diesel mechanic training to program participants—teaching a career skill that will see significant demand here in Chicago and across the country over the next decade.

“By expanding our Second Chance program we are making an already successful program even better by giving more Chicago residents the opportunity to have a middle-class job and a second chance at success,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By providing specialized training for skills that are in demand, we will keep jobs in our neighborhoods while keeping more of our residents on the pathway to a career and a middle-class life for themselves and their families.”   

Under Mayor Emanuel, the Second Chance program has quadrupled in size, becoming one of the largest programs of its kind in the country. The program has grown to 265 positions for bus and rail car servicers who clean and detail the CTA’s more than 1,200 rail cars and nearly 1,800 buses, as well as rail station platforms and bus and rail yards.  The program serves individuals who have been convicted of non-violent criminal offenses, as well as victims of abuse and others who face barriers to employment.

“The Second Chance program is a lifeline to men and women often in dire straits.  I congratulate Mayor Emanuel on the expansion of Second Chance and I am excited to see it grow into an even more robust service for so many in need. It is important to know that my constituents and all Chicagoans who qualify will be able to continue on the path to economic stability by gaining skills and a trade to carry them to job security. The work that I have done in Washington to press for job training funding in conjunction with the Mayor’s commitment will significantly improve the quality of life for all,” said U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush.

Since May 2011, more than 500 have participated in the program. One hundred have been hired by CTA, and dozens more have moved on to other jobs, thanks to the experience they received in the Second Chance program.  Of the 100 hired by CTA, seven have moved up to manager-level positions.

“CTA’s Second Chance program provides invaluable work experience for individuals who face significant hurdles to employment,” said Claypool. “This life-changing program gives ex-offenders a second chance at building successful lives, while also bringing value to our customers with cleaner, more comfortable commutes.”

Already, the CTA Apprenticeship Program has changed lives, including that of Jakeisha Beals of Chicago. Beals, 31, completed the program in 2014, was hired by CTA, and was recently promoted to a managerial position overseeing rail car cleaning.

“To know that I am working for the second largest transit agency in America excites me,” Beals said. “After joining the Second Chance program, I knew I could make a career out of this and stay on the right path.”

The diesel mechanic training will help prepare participants for a career that’s projected to be in high demand for many years.  Transit agencies across the country report that they are experiencing a shortage of mechanics, and transit employers expect to hire and train the equivalent of 1 to 1.5 times the current workforce over the next decade to meet the needs of growth, retirement and turnover.

The CTA employs nearly 400 bus mechanics. The agency currently has more than 30 vacant positions, and retirement/turnover means vacancies will continue to be available for qualified candidates—providing consistent opportunities for good-paying jobs.

To select participants for the Second Chance program, the CTA partners with several nonprofit agencies who pre-screen candidates and provide job readiness instruction. 

More information is available on the CTA website: http://www.transitchicago.com/business/apprenticeshipprog.aspx

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