A year ago Marcos Soto was working as a helper/grinder in a welding shop. This low paying, labor intensive job was the only type of job he had ever held.
Soto, now 42 years old, was recently released from prison after eight-and-a-half years. He wanted to find a better job but knew his status as a felon wasn’t the only way his job possibilities were limited. He wanted to become a welder but without training, hands-on experience and enough practice, he would not be able to pass the exams so he could earn the required certifications.
As much as Soto wanted to get ahead, he simply was not able to do so on his own. His small salary made it too difficult to save up the $3,000 needed to enroll in the welder fabrication courses provided by Pro-Weld Welding School in Nampa.
Luckily, a friend referred Soto to the Idaho Department of Labor where he met with Michael LeDuc, a workforce consultant in the Boise office. LeDuc met with Soto and told him about the Workforce and Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program and found Soto also qualified for job training assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation. Soto said he was thrilled to find out he qualified for a grant which covered the cost of the welding classes and paid for enough tools to get him started.
Soto was determined to make this opportunity a success even though it meant cutting his hours at work in half so he could attend classes. In order to make ends meet, he found a second part-time job driving a forklift at night. Soto said he spent the next nine months exhausted, but not wanting to disappoint his daughters, he found the energy to keep going till he finished.
Soto did so well in the welding program, he passed all three certification exams before the scheduled end of the training and was hired by Kemper Northwest. Soto talks about how grateful he is for the assistance and for this opportunity.
“This experience changed my life dramatically,” Soto said. “I grew up in poverty and I was ashamed of being in prison. When you grow up in that type of life, it’s hard to get out of that cycle but now I’m going places. I went from only ever having dead-end jobs, barely making more than minimum wage, and now I have a full-time job with benefits. I’m making double what I was making a year ago.”
For the first time in his life, Soto was able to save up enough money to buy new school clothes for his daughters and take them on vacation. He also just became a certified pipe welder. He said he dreams of buying his own home and wants to learn to become a welding inspector so he can open his own welding school someday.
– Kristie Winslow, technical writer,
Idaho Department of Labor