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Mike Rowe back in Baltimore to help expand a program that trains ex-felons in construction skills

Mike Rowe returns to Baltimore to give a jobs training program a boost

After the fires and vandalism of April, the president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors of Baltimore decided that the ABC’s annual gala needed to be something other than another big, formal dinner. “We need to do more,” declared Mike Henderson.

So the winter gala became the first-ever fundraiser for a 10-year-old program that trains people from Baltimore, many of them ex-offenders, in the building trades.

It’s called JumpStart, and it’s a project of the ABC and the Job Opportunities Task Force. Mike Rowe, the Baltimore-born host of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs and now CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It, is the keynote speaker for this Saturday’s sold-out event at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. You can hear my interview with Mike Rowe on Episode 42 of the Roughly Speaking podcast.

Rowe was a natural choice for this role. A champion of blue-collar work, he created the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to support training in the skilled trades. Plus, he’s become a booster of Baltimore, especially since last April’s unrest, which dominated the 24-hour news cycle of the cable channel that now employs him. You can hear Rowe talk about that in the podcast. And here’s more about Rowe’s efforts in Baltimore from some of David Zurawik’s reporting last year.

JumpStart is a 14-week pre-apprenticeship program with two classrooms in the city, and about 24 students per class. They learn about wiring and carpentry, workplace safety, getting along with others on the job, showing up for work on time. The program claims that it has helped 700 people over the last decade, three-quarters of whom are ex-offenders. The project says it has a 75 percent job-placement rate, and Rowe says the success rate -- graduates staying employed in the jobs they trained for -- is about 80 percent.

“This has been a challenging year for Baltimore,” Henderson said, “and we recognize that while the program is successful, we want to raise funds to expand it, bringing more opportunity to capable individuals.”

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