For READI Chicago participants in Stage 3 of their transitional job and those who have completed their 18 months of subsidized employment, Revolution Workshop offers a continuation of the safe, comfortable environment that READI Chicago strives to create for participants to practice cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skills.
The 10-12-week Revolution Workshop (RW) program trains people in carpentry, electric, and plumbing skills with the aim of connecting them with entry-level construction positions upon program completion. According to RW Business Services Manager Jackie Gallo, about 90 percent of RW graduates secure construction jobs shortly after completing the program.
For Stage 3 participants like Austin READI Chicago participant Omar, RW is an opportunity to transition into sustainable, unsubsidized employment before reaching the 18-month mark in READI Chicago. Omar has had multiple interviews with construction companies since he completed the training program on June 26, and RW was so impressed with his work ethic that they hired him to help with office work and training programs in the meantime.
“This program is one of the best experiences I’ve had in READI — it’s going to change my life,” Omar said. “I don’t want my kids to go through the trials and tribulations I went through in the streets. That’s why I’m doing this.”
Omar, who joined READI Chicago in June 2018 after being released from prison, said CBT has been instrumental in helping him mature and thrive at RW.
“CBT has helped me a lot,” Omar said. “It helped me observe certain situations instead of reacting out of impulse. It’s easier to think about things instead of reacting — it’s good to weigh your options.”
Jackie said that when she first began interviewing READI Chicago participants for the training program, she heard about CBT constantly.
“They would always say, ‘READI isn’t a program, it’s a mindset,'” Jackie said. “Sometimes READI staff will come in and do CBT here, even. I think it’s helpful that we can mutually reinforce things.”‘
This is crucial for participants like Jerimiah, a North Lawndale READI Chicago participant who recently completed his 18 months of subsidized employment with READI Chicago. Jerimiah began training at RW one week before his 18 months ended, and receiving supports at RW has helped ease the anxiety that many participants feel as they transition out of subsidized employment.
“The staff care a lot, and they make sure we’re okay every day,” Jerimiah said. “They talk to us one-on-one about everything we need. They’re just there if you need someone to talk to.”
While in jail, Jerimiah was part of the Sheriff’s Anti-Violence Effort, and that’s how he heard about READI Chicago.
“I liked READI Chicago when I first started because it was something new, something fresh,” Jerimiah said. “Then I really started thinking about stuff I wanted to do. READI gave me that push I needed to go for my goals.”
Jerimiah said CBT has been instrumental in learning to control his anger and impulse control, and he doesn’t know where he would be today if not for READI Chicago.
“My life has changed since I got into READI Chicago,” Jerimiah said. “I met a lot of new people, and I got a lot of opportunities. I’ve never had an opportunity like this at RW before. I didn’t think I could do something like this.”
Jackie said men and women like Omar and Jerimiah are exactly who RW looks for to fill their training cohorts. Not only does RW welcome people with criminal records, but they also work with employers that support people who have been incarcerated and urge other companies to consider relaxing their hiring barriers around incarceration.
“We meet so many people who have not been given opportunity and they have certain barriers, like a record, keeping them from that opportunity,” Jackie said. “We want to get more people with records into the trades and help employers understand that most criminal records are nonviolent.”