Ondrae Ragland has had good-paying production jobs in the auto industry. But he wanted a different path where he could be his own boss, build financial independence, and manage his work hours with greater flexibility.
“I asked the universe for what I wanted and then mentally prepared myself to pursue my goals,” said Ondrae, who is 27. “Then I heard about the Earn + Learn program and I knew it was a good opportunity to get the training and certifications I needed.”
Southwest Solutions’ Earn + Learn program at the Randolph Career Technical Center trains Detroiters for jobs in the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) and electrical skilled trades. It’s a free, three-month program that includes, work-readiness, WorkKeys and pre-apprenticeship training.
Ondrae graduated from Earn + Learn with his HVAC certification in the fall of 2018. He was then hired by a home improvement company to repair and install furnaces and water heaters. After three months, Ondrae decided start his own business in earnest, called RJ’S Home Services.
Ondrae didn’t have much capital for his startup, so he rented a U-Haul trailer to carry his tools and whatever else he needed for the job. For the first couple of months, Ondrae only had three jobs. He then placed ads on Facebook and distributed flyers. Business picked up quickly, aided by referrals from satisfied customers, allowing him to buy a van and employ others part-time to help with the jobs.
Ondrae aspires to expand his company, have a fleet of vehicles, and hire many more techs to do the physical work while he focuses on operations and marketing. He plans to get more training and education to facilitate his dream. In the meantime, he is pleased with how his business has grown and the steady income to support his family. Ondrae and his fiancée have three young children and are now looking to buy a larger home.
“Without Earn + Learn, I would not have been able to get this far so soon,” Ondrae said. “The program is inspirational and the teachers are dedicated, encouraging and really care about your future. I’m still in touch with Kim Willis, who taught the work readiness, and I know she’s proud of my success. I’d recommend the program 100% to anyone who wants a career in the trades.”
To learn more about the Earn + Learn skilled trades program, including how to enroll, contact Jordan via email or 313-297-0095. The program is open to residents of Detroit who are over 18 years old. It meets in the evenings Tuesday through Friday as well as during the day on Saturday. Again, the program is free and participants also receive a stipend.