Karen Callender never pictured herself in a career involving manual labor—but when she saw information about the NYCHA Resident Training Academy (NRTA) in The NYCHA Journal soon after her corporate office position of 14 years had been eliminated, she wanted to try something new.
The NRTA, managed by NYCHA’s Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES), provides residents with training opportunities and job placement assistance for careers in the construction, janitorial services, and maintenance fields. Ms. Callender, a former Bayview Houses resident, completed the janitorial track of the NRTA in 2012 and soon began working as a Caretaker J at Langston Hughes Houses in Brooklyn.
She is thankful for the program that introduced her to a new career she enjoys. “If I look back, I wouldn’t have ever seen myself riding a Bobcat or picking up garbage – sometimes I ask myself, ‘Am I really doing this?’ I actually love it. I don’t think I could ever go back to an office job.”
The NRTA was launched in 2010 and is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation. REES partners with many of the best employment training providers in the city to help with the NRTA, including Brooklyn Workforce Innovations (BWI), Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), and the New York City College of Technology (City Tech). The program has helped many residents achieve their dreams of having careers with growth opportunities—of the 1,521 NRTA graduates more than 80 percent have been placed into jobs.
Throughout her time working at Langston Hughes, Ms. Callender got to know many residents, partner organizations working at the development, and also completed projects to better the community, including a mural project for all three buildings at the development. Her initiative has helped Ms. Callender rise through the ranks, moving from Caretaker J to Caretaker G, then Acting Supervisor, and a promotion in 2017 to Supervisor of Housing Grounds at Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn.
“The NRTA gave me a second chance to get back on my feet,” said Ms. Callender. “I believe in paying it forward, so I try to tell anyone I know who is in need of a job to go to the program.” To learn more about the NYCHA Resident Training Academy, visit http://opportunitynycha.org/workforce-development/nycha-resident-training-academy.