Off the Streets and Into A Job – Chanté Adams, Employee Support Coordinator – CRCD Enterprises

The young men and women of central LA come to CRCD Enterprises hungry for work. They come with no work experience, no high school diploma, no driver’s license, no money for bus fare, and until now, no hope.

These are the employees of the commercial painting contractor and building facilities management company run by CRCD—the Coalition for Responsible Community Development—a nonprofit based in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. In 2010 CRCD launched CRCD Enterprises to develop opportunities for paid work that lead to a sustainable career path for young people age 17 to 24. Five years ago there were 11 people working in CRCD Enterprise businesses. Two years ago there were 15. Today 66.

With help from REDF, and through the work of Chanté Adams, CRCD Employment Support Coordinator, the program has grown from an enterprise that wasn’t meeting their numbers to one that is experiencing strong, sustainable growth. To improve the business, CRCD Enterprises applied for an additional California Contractors License in Landscape to aid in securing larger contracts with public and private sources.  “We continue to build our capacity to go after larger contracts, which requires a trained workforce,” Adams says.  Larger contracts mean more opportunities for young people, and winning them allows CRCD Enterprises to stay true to its mission, Changing Lives, One Job At A Time.

The difference? “Support, training, and technical assistance from REDF,” according to Adams.  “We had no youth employee support in place when I arrived in 2013,” Adams remembers. Backed by REDF, Adams developed a curriculum called JET (Job Engagement Training) which offers an introduction to employment. These are followed by JET courses that provide workforce training in the four lines of business run by CRCD. Young people in the program can choose from classes in custodial work, painting, maintenance techniques, and landscaping.

“My first goal here was to remove the barriers that prevented young people from being successfully employed,” Adams says.  For some young people, that meant helping them study for a leaner’s permit so they could pass the DMV exam and get a driver’s license. For others, it was providing bus fare in the form of tokens. For the youth that have missed a meal, Adams keeps a refrigerator stocked with breakfast and lunch. “It’s hard to do a good job at work when you’re too hungry to concentrate,” she says. And for the young lady who showed up for training inked with gang tattoos, help from CRCD meant providing a safe place for training, and a trip to a partner organization to get the tats removed.

With support from REDF, Adams was able to buy hygiene kits, stock the refrigerator, and ensure a steady supply of bus tokens. For the young people who showed promise and a commitment to the program, Adams purchased work boots, uniforms, and tools.  In addition she was able to put in place Social Innovation Fund (SIF) reports to track progress as youth entered the program, and completed their training.

Those reports help CRCD Enterprises track progress in spreadsheets and weekly work assessments designed to improve the quality of work performed. Tracking attendance is critical in a situation where “a conversation can save a young person,” Adams says. “You have to care, you have to show up, you have to be on site. If someone missed a day, I have the opportunity to find out what occurred or if there is a situation I can assist with. My goal is to make sure these young men and women are successful,” Adams continued.  “It’s not just about meeting numbers, it’s about changing lives.”

– Chanté Marie Adams is the Employee Support Coordinator for CRCD Enterprises. She received her Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Cal State Dominquez Hills University in 2008.  Born in a working middle class family, she started hanging out with the wrong people after her parents’ divorce.  Through time and the right guidance she was able to get on the right track.  At the same time it was through those growing pains that molded what she wanted her future to look like.  She wanted to help others, especially young adults who may for no fault of their own be on the wrong track. CRCD Enterprise’s mission statement, “Changing Lives, One Job At A Time” speaks so loudly to the purpose of her being at CRCD, and why she is so proud to be a part of this social enterprise.