Albeiro Loaiza chased his dream of freedom to America from Colombia in 2002.
“I believe in freedom,” he says, “and I think America, for me, is the best country in the world to provide freedom for me and for my kids.”
His children, now 22 and 24, graduated from UNC Charlotte (on the same day) and have good jobs. “They accomplished the American dream,” Loaiza says.
And in the last six months, he’s accomplished his own version of the American dream with the help of an On-The-Job Training (OJT) grant from Charlotte Works.
Loaiza’s background is in engineering and construction, and he worked in the industry in both Colombia and the United States until the economic downturn. He was unemployed for a year and learned about Charlotte Works from the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Workforce Solutions.
“I looked on the Internet and started to come here for seminars. I was in many courses here and in one, they mentioned Charlotte Works could provide money to a company to sponsor you,” he says. “So I applied for many jobs!”
[OJT grants provide wage/salary reimbursements to employers to compensate for the costs associated with skills-upgrade training and/or the loss of production for new hires. Employers may receive reimbursement of 50 to 90 percent of the wages/salaries for OJT trainees. Reimbursement rates and period of time vary based on the size of the organization and the specific training needed by new hires.]
During his re-employment campaign, Loaiza contacted a friend who works at SEPI Engineering & Construction, Inc., a full-service civil engineering, surveying, planning and construction management firm. “I mentioned to him that Charlotte Works could provide money to the company while I got trained. This was at the end of July, and by September, SEPI offered me a job,” he says.
“This is the first time they know about this program, so I am an experiment. [SEPI] took a risk because I am Spanish-American and I have the broken English,” Loaiza continues. “The company is open to the multi-cultural experience. They train me very well and treat me like an equal.”
“We didn’t really have a role for him at the time, but we saw potential in him and thought he would be a good fit,” says Joe Paterniti, assistant manager for construction engineering and inspection at SEPI. “It seemed very attractive that this grant would help us in training Albeiro and allow him to obtain the necessary certifications to perform construction engineering and inspection (CE&I) work for our client, the N.C. Department of Transportation.”
Loaiza joined SEPI’s team working on the I-485 extension project as a CE&I tech II. Through the OJT grant, Loiaza has earned certifications in erosion control, quality testing for asphalt and concrete and soil and materials testing. He’s also shadowing a bridge engineer to learn how to inspect those structures.
“Albeiro is very eager to learn,” says Paterniti. “It’s worked out well for us – the grant gave us the opportunity to bring on talent that, ordinarily, we wouldn’t be able to afford. We’d like to find more people like him who are willing to learn and help us grow our business.”
“I’m so happy. When you are unemployed, you start to lose your dignity. You know that you have the skills, but sometimes, life hits you so bad. When you find some kind of person that offers comfort and guidance and support, you feel that you are worthy and you see that you are not the only person with this problem. Charlotte Works has this program that helps connect people with new goals and new knowledge and provides links and support,” he says. “When you provide jobs to people, you provide happiness. And that’s more important than money, because when you have a job, you start to recover hope.”
Learn more about Charlotte Works’ OJT Program.