Coalfield’s approach follows a 33-6-3 model: 33 hours a week spent in on-the-job training, along with participation in workshops and trainings; six hours a week devoted to community college and business classes for an associate degree in applied sciences; and three hours a week committed to personal development coaching and life skills.
“We hired our first crew in 2012; we quickly saw the deep complexity of the poverty we were dealing with,” says Mr. Dennison. “There are very real differences between generational poverty and circumstantial poverty. The work ethic of our crew was tremendous. They were showing up early and would work for as long as we’d let them. They had a ton of creativity and energy. What was tripping us up was not so much on the job site, but on the home front. Our crew members were faced with a cascade of never-ending challenges – transportation challenges with a car breaking down; financial challenges with debt piling up and bad credit scores; health and emotional challenges; the ability to find childcare. Some were even dealing with food insecurity. All of these interrelate and compound over time, and it just gets harder and harder to get ahead. We added life skills training to help address and provide support for those kinds of issues.”
“The Heinz Awards recognizes Brandon for his thoughtful, holistic approach to addressing the trauma long afflicting the people, communities and land of southern West Virginia in the wake of coal’s decline,” said Teresa Heinz, Chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation. “Brandon has not stopped at simply identifying need and equipping individuals with employable skills. He has developed a model that harnesses the tremendous potential, talent and courage of Appalachia’s people while also creating new, sustainable jobs in emerging fields and addressing the social barriers that have hindered opportunity in an area that for decades powered the economic growth of our country. In presenting Brandon with this year’s Heinz Award, we are not only recognizing what has been achieved, we are also celebrating the bright future that is being created for the communities of Appalachia.”
Established to honor the memory of U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards this year recognize s those who have made significant contributions in five distinct areas of great importance to Senator Heinz: Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; and Technology, the Economy and Employment. Now in its 24th year, the Heinz Awards has recognized 144 individuals and awarded more than $28.75 million to the honorees. For more information about the awardees visit www.heinzawards.net/2019.