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September 7, 2021

Robert Duchene was furloughed during the pandemic and looking for a position that would allow him to provide for his family without sacrificing work-life balance. He saw an advertisement for the Construction Career Jumpstart (CCJ) program on Facebook and after applying, was accepted. Here he tells us about his experience with the program and how it led to a position with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E).  

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I found the CCJ program through a Facebook post after being furloughed from my campus operations position with the University of California San Diego. I was a temporary service employee and we were some of the first to be furloughed when the pandemic hit.

With the birth of my son during this same time, I did not want to risk just taking on any job. If I were to take on a new job, it had to be worth it. I didn’t want to take a work program that did not facilitate long term goals and did not want to put my family’s health at risk. I saw CCJ as a good opportunity to get where I wanted to go. 

I had prior construction experience but I learned something new every day as part of the CCJ program, like shoveling and digging in adverse soil conditions. The instructors were committed to making a positive experience and were collaborative—they had a growth mindset. There is a big difference between people who work and go through the motions and those who are genuinely passionate/committed/invested in someone’s success. I also liked interacting with the other participants; you were able to get different perspectives. 

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I’m currently working for SDG&E as a gas laborer and am training toward a Gas Underground Tech B position. Construction is a dangerous job, but working for SDG&E we’re being productive but as safe as possible. SDG&E wants to be the cleanest safest and most reliable green utility company in America and the safety team comes out regularly to do observations at worksites.  

Long term, my goal is to learn more. There are so many different things you can do—gas side verses electric. I’m trying to talk to as many people as possible. I want to have great pay, similar hours and be able to be here for my family. I want to make good enough money to be able to provide for my son to participate in extracurriculars and also be able to see the results, like attending sports games or watching performances that my son participates in.  

I wish this career path can be emphasized in school; the construction path is underrepresented. CCJ is such a good opportunity—it can be life changing. I want people to know how awesome the Workforce Partnership is. Getting into construction wasn’t easy for me, so it is more important for those with barriers to have folks to support and advocate for them.

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