Workshop Helps Ex Offenders Be Entrepreneurs

During Milwaukee’s small business week, local leaders are encouraging and inspiring change. They offered the “Don't Take a Job, Make a Job Workshop for Former Offenders.” 

Rashaad Washington, CEO of Pro Trade Job Development, spoke at the workshop. Pro Trade is a construction training school. However, it’s so much more than a school.   

“They are looking at their life assessment, they are looking at what their core values are, they are looking at how their relationships are, who they are associating themselves with because they have goals,” Washington said.     

The students go through the 10-week program at Pro Trade. They do personal development before they get into the trades. They write their own rules and they can’t be late. 

"Typically when you look for a job, if it says felon, you don't see anything else, you see that person as a felon. This is a felon but this person is so much more than a felon, he works as a team, he's a hard worker, he's accountable, and he follows rules," Washington said. 

Warren Townes, 33, graduated from the program. He spent seven years in jail and when he was released he wanted to do something positive in his life.

 "You have to be a person who wants to change… you got to go do it, you got to show it," Townes said.

Townes owns We Paint LLC and has three to four men working for him. He’s thankful to the program.

"It kind of shaped my life in a way,” he said. “…On paper I have been out in the world where crime is being committed and instead of being that person that's out there putting something in on that, I'm out here changing things."

Washington worked with Townes. He said he can relate to the students, which is why he wanted to make a difference as they transition from the street life into the business world just like he did. 

"Just because one person has a sketchy background or things like that, they can still help a company grow, they are still a citizen of our city, they served their time,” Washington said. “They do deserve that opportunity if they prove that they are worthy and by completing our program says a lot."         

Pro Trade’s goal for this year is to have 100 employers hire 100 of its students. They think this initiative will make a change in Milwaukee to give people a chance to contribute to their community. 

Also, a construction agency is expected to move into their facility next week to help with job placement. 

Pro Trade doesn’t only helps ex offenders. Their classes are open to anyone. 

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