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CTA To Hire 200 More Ex-Cons as Apprentices

By Erica Demarest | March 6, 2013 2:28pm | Updated on March 6, 2013 4:01pm

HUMBOLDT PARK — The CTA on Wednesday announced plans to quadruple its apprenticeship program for ex-convicts, adding 200 paid positions in the coming year.

“If you want to make sure that an ex-offender does not become a repeat offender, you have to have job opportunities for them to prove themselves,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who announced the expansion from a CTA bus facility in Humboldt Park.

The program allows ex-offenders who have had “nonviolent brushes with the law” to train for nine months or one year at $9.50 per hour, CTA President Forrest Claypool said. Typical duties include cleaning or servicing equipment.

There are currently 65 rail apprenticeships available. In conjunction with the Amalgamated Transit Union, the CTA will create an additional 200 bus and rail apprenticeships, Claypool said.

These positions offer “meaningful job experience” by teaching trade skills and bolstering resumes, Claypool said. But they can also help ease ex-offenders back into society.

“It provides apprentices with a self-sufficiency that allows them to take care of their families, and an opportunity to take pride in a job well done,” Claypool said.

Michael Russell, 38, began working as a CTA apprentice in 2010 after serving three jail sentences for drug charges.

“I found out about the apprenticeship program while I was incarcerated,” Russell said, explaining he thought it could improve his life and the lives of his three children.

Russell cleaned rail cars at O’Hare airport and, at a supervisor’s recommendation, is currently vying for a permanent bus operator position.

Emanuel stressed the importance of good parenting in crime reduction, and said Russell’s turnaround could impact future generations.

“What it means to his three kids when they look at their father today, and the choices he has made — that’s another generation that will take a road in the right course,” Emanuel said.

Claypool said that since August 2008, 322 apprentices have successfully completed the CTA program. Fifteen have been hired by the CTA, and at least 114 more have secured jobs elsewhere.

With the additional 200 slots, CTA’s program will become one of the largest of its kind in the nation.

“I do believe that when somebody commits a crime, they have to do the time,” Emanuel said. “But this is about people who have committed a nonviolent crime, they served time, and they’re back out on the street.”

Apprentices are allowed to complete one bus and one rail apprenticeship for a total of 21 months. Candidates can apply through Westside Health Authority or Teamwork Englewood.