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Thanks to the Electrical Training Program, a new class from End Hunger In Calvert County, 24 people who were once unemployed or underemployed are now either working or closer to working full time through the Local 26 Electricians Union.

The Rev. Robert P. Hahn, chairman of End Hunger, said the idea for the training program came from a brainstorming session between the JATC International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 Electricians Union, the Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Council and End Hunger representatives.

“They constructed this idea out of what was there, out of what the Electricians Union wanted to do [and] out of what we wanted to bring to the table,” Hahn said. “It was a major success.”

The program launched in September to provide a job training program to get county residents back to work, Hahn said, and from it, 24 people graduated in December.

“Our mission at End Hunger is to help move people from dependency to self-sufficiency,” Hahn said in a written statement. “Because of the Electrical Training Program, 24 people who once were not able to provide for their families now can. That’s what it’s about for us.”

Hahn said “we got the word out” about the program through churches in the county, through food pantries in the county and through End Hunger’s social networking program, which he said was “pretty active.”

“We just got the word out and candidates came in,” Hahn said. “We filled up so fast we had to create a waiting list, and I know that not everyone got in.”

The 15-week course was a combination of classroom lectures as well as hands-on practicums, according to an End Hunger press release. Students received 90 hours of training experience and became certified in Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, CPR and basic first aid.

Hahn attributed the success of the program to “great partners,” including the Calvert County public school system, which made the Calvert Career and Technology Academy available to hold the class “for a nominal cost.”

Graduates are now part of the residential program through the electrician union and are qualified for above entry-level positions with electrical companies, according to the press release, and many will begin pursuing a career with the union’s apprenticeship program.

Several of the program’s graduates have already secured jobs with electrical companies, Hahn said, and some have “moved to the top of the list” for getting hired. Others have moved up within the company they work for because they became better qualified for other jobs, he said.

While Hahn said he hopes to have another training program, it depends on “coming up with the funds for the instructor.” He said the program cost about $30,000 to conduct, which was paid for through grant funds and money from End Hunger and Chesapeake Church, and provided free tuition, tools and tool belts for the students.

“It’s one of the best investments,” Hahn said of the program. “It’s a real investment because each one of those students becomes an employed taxpayer.”

For more information about End Hunger and how to get involved, go to www.endhungercalvert.org.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com