Former Home Health Aide Turns To Manufacturing For Brighter Future

Altheha DrePaul is an example of the modern face of immigration in the U.S. Originally from Guyana, she came to America a decade ago and began working as a home health aide.

Like so many workers in recent years, however, she was laid off in 2006, revealing an uncertain future. Undeterred, DrePaul decided to return to school to further her education.

The Minneapolis resident was aided in her effort by a regional worker education program called M-Powered, a collaboration between a local technical college and the area's workforce development agency, which prepares workers in a number of fields, including the trade DrePaul pursued -- metal forming.

It's such programs that President Obama cites as an important component in helping putting Americans back to work. The administration plans to spend $2 billion to help community colleges create training programs -- with input from local businesses -- toward the aim of boosting the number of certified manufacturing workers by a half million by 2016.

After three months of training, which included brushing up on her math and English skills, DrePaul, 38, became an apprentice machine operator at E.J. Ajax and Sons Inc., a Minneapolis-based maker of fasteners, brackets and other metal parts.

The firm has 40 employees, at least four of whom work in the company's four-year apprenticeship program, company vice president Erick Ajax tells AOL Jobs.

The M-powered program is meant "to allow people to come in at the entry level and ascend a career ladder," the company explained to the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper during a recent visit to the plant by President Obama.

In addition, learning a trade gives workers such as DrePaul greater job security and the ability to earn better wages.

DrePaul fashions parts that go into refrigerators and fire-extinguisher covers. She earns twice the amount that she once did as home health aide and now has access to a broad array of benefits, including health care, a 401(k) retirement program and tuition reimbursement, a perk that DrePaul tells AOL Jobs she's using to pursue a bachelor's degree in business management.

Despite the slow economic recovery, she says, "business is picking up," which results in her having to work overtime on some days.

As much as anything, DrePaul is proud that she works in American manufacturing. Growing up in Guyana, she says, nearly all the goods her family bought were made in China, and few of them were of good quality. That recollection inspires her to do the best that she can at Ajax, she says.

A married mother of two teenagers, DrePaul gets up at 4 a.m. each morning to catch a bus that gets her to the job by 6 a.m. She doesn't mind the lengthy commute, she says, because her job is help her to build a better future for her children.

"I feel blessed," she says.

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Richard Braithwaite

Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit. (Napoleon Hill)..We must commend Mrs. Altheha Drepaul for her strong will on not giving up, not only did she do it for herself but she also did it for her family. She is a great inspiration and gives true meaning of words hope, fast and pray. She took a negative outcome and made it into a positive one Mrs. Drepaul you certainly have inspired me and others..Thank you for being you.

October 04 2011 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's such programs that President Obama cites as an important component in helping putting Americans back to work.

OK did I miss the part in the article that says she is an American......... no mention made of her becoming a citizen

October 04 2011 at 11:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Too many working as home health aides lack sensitivity and the desire to truly assist patients. Such people should work at manufacturing jobs, etc., but most remain as aides because they can avoid actually working. This applies primarily to Africans who purposely take advantage of the agencies who hire them and are equally as insensitive to the needs of the patients they are contracted to give care. This shameful practice will only be exposed when someone deemed worthy is neglected and death is the result.

October 04 2011 at 10:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to flowerdrum12's comment

Why is working in manufacturing a "better" future? It depends on the person. Maybe it's a better future for her but everyone is different. Some home health aides go into nursing or other medical fields. Some home health aides just want part-time work.

October 04 2011 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not everyone is cut out for the job of home health aide. Some people like working with machines while others like working with people. Although being a home health aide can be difficult and unpleasant (as well as low pay), there are rewards for effectively caring for others. Why is it that our society looks down on those who care for others?

It is a good job for nursing students or those interested in pursuing a nursing and/or medical career. But nursing students are often not interested in doing this job. Why is it that mostly immigrants are funneled into this job?

October 04 2011 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When will people understand that the shared info among the foreign home health aides is that it is an easy job. You go to work, sit down and watch tv, and pick up a check. My sister has been severely victimized by several agencies whose main concern is making money. Some of the aides speak so little english, that there is no means of communication between themselves and the patients, others dictate what they will not do to assist the patient. Many of them steal personal belongings and supplies from the patient while the patient is sleeping, even more, they become angry if asked to wash their hands, or assist the patient in any way . Nanny cams are a must for protection.

October 04 2011 at 9:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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