After spending four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, James Shepherd finally had his conviction overturned and was looking to get his life back on track. But his exoneration didn’t remove the four year gap on his resume. Finding a career was a critical first step – and it was looking like a hurdle he would need help to overcome. When he heard Goodwill offered free career training in the booming construction industry, he immediately signed up.
“I knew nothing of construction or carpentry other than hanging a picture, so being able to study from the basics and lay a foundation in the trades was amazing,” he said. “I was in there every day like a geek soaking up all the information. I was first in the door and last to leave. The atmosphere at Goodwill is just great. Everyone was looking to better themselves and it was infectious.”
His dedication to embracing this new career path didn’t go unnoticed. Just a few short months after his release, he completed the Construction Basics and Introduction to Carpentry classes and started his construction career with Goodwill. Then, he was hired by Goodwill’s training partner, Central Piedmont Community College. He’s now a lab technician for CPCC – working at the Goodwill Construction Skills Training Center.
“That was a mental trophy for me. When I was able to be candid about my story and where I was trying to go, the response to me just being myself has fulfilled me in ways I never knew were possible,” he said.
Each day, James is responsible for overseeing tools and materials and assisting in instruction for the classes that got him started in the industry. As a graduate, he’s proud to see the growing number of students coming through the classes to gain new skills that are in demand in our region. Now as a mentor to many, he’s encouraged by the response from employers as he helps students launch their new careers.
“That’s my motivation to wake up every day now, knowing that people can draw strength from my journey as they’re trying to reinvent themselves through Goodwill,” he said.