For past parolees, Valley Apprenticeship Connections changes lives

Posted on Apr 17, 2019

Michael Cortez graduated from the Valley Apprenticeship Connections (VAC) program in July 2017 and ever since then his life changed for the better. In the apprenticeship program, he learned on the job skills and gained the confidence to succeed in the field of construction. What Cortez calls a history of bad decision making, resulted in prison then to parole and looking for a jump start into a career.

“I knew a job at Walmart wouldn’t cut it so I went to a meeting at the parole office and a speech was given about the VAC program,” Cortez said. “I heard all you need is a driver’s license and the motivation to make it through the program.”

After parole, Cortez saw VAC as an opportunity to change his current situation, while providing a better life for his 3 children and wife. “I ended up in prison,” Cortez said. “When I came home, I made up my mind that I wanted to do right, but I didn’t necessarily have the tools.”

With VAC, he was able to gain hands on training, learn soft skills and the basics of construction. “I don’t think I ever would have been able to do this if it wasn’t for this program because I didn’t think about joining the union or being a blue collar worker,” Cortez said.

Three days after completion, he was offered a job working for the high speed rail and was surprised to hear his union dues were paid up to two months, thanks to the VAC program. Since then Cortez has been able to work various jobs, using the skills he’s learned during his apprenticeship training.

“I can take care of all three of my children, without worrying,” Cortez said. “It’s made me an equal match to my wife. There is nothing sitting on her shoulders that we can’t take together.”

Cortez continues to recommend the VAC program to anyone interested in construction and tell others about his own journey. “It will definitely change your life. Your wants will be satisfied. Your needs will be satisfied. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the program."

Learn more about VAC