Eight Baltimore City residents completed a new pilot apprenticeship at the Foundery in South Baltimore.
Last week, the elite eight, as they called themselves, graduated, but they didn't receive diplomas. Their degree was a wooden chest or shelving unit, proof to prospective employers that they've learned a trade.
Jason Hardebeck is the CEO of the Foundery, a section of Sagamore Development's city garage in South Baltimore.
He calls it a ‘maker’s space;’ a mission to provide community access to industrial grade tools and training.
From metal to wood to textiles, people can learn a trade here.
"This is a place you can come with an idea and build it. It is again, not just the tools, it's the people."
Follow Brian Kuebler on Twitter @BrianfromABC2
Anyone can sign up but last week's elite eight were put together with the help of the Center for Urban Families and Sagamore Development.
As men with barriers to employment, they were chosen to spend the last two months learning a brand new trade.
"To put together a pilot and see how we can use the Foundery to really speed up this pre-apprenticeship if you will and see how we can increase capacity,” Hardebeck said.
That capacity is needed to meet the demand of 30 percent of all the Port Covington jobs promised to be offered to Baltimore residents.
"This is just a start, us just getting started on that long runway of work,” Sagamore vice president of community affairs Alicia Wilson said, “This is a blueprint."
One of the largest urban renewal projects in the country is going to require one of the largest workforce development programs to match.
Wilson has been helping draw up the plans of such a program for more than a year and last week's graduation was a small scale pilot, using the Foundery in part to help train low and no skill workers for a life's work.
"We will fine-tune those things on a small scale so that when the TIF is issued, we are prepared, fully prepared to welcome Baltimore City residents into the site for jobs, careers and hopefully ownership," Wilson said.
The proof Sagamore says can be found in the craftsmanship of the projects by the first eight residents to graduate.
Just the first step in what the company says could impact a generation in Baltimore.
"In real fashion people are going to be removed from the corners. They are going to have an opportunity to have a meaningful share. And this is just a test case. In this pilot, we have eight new ambassadors that will go back to their community and say this is real, it can happen to you, you should buy in," Wilson said.
See also: The Foundery opens at Port Covington
Sagamore Development says it plans to run a few more pilots like this one in the coming months.
It hopes to have the larger work force development program in place by the end of this year.
Sagamore expects the first of the TIF money and Port Covington construction to start by the beginning of 2018.