Former Philly DA leads new vocational program aimed at second chances

The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives is opening a new Vocational Training Center in Philadelphia. The program's mission is about giving people second chances.

Video Transcript

- --those who are often overlooked in the hiring process are being given top priority at a new job training program in North Philadelphia. From at-risk youth to those with criminal records, program organizers are hoping to break the cycle that often leads to poverty. "Action News" community journalist, Ashley Johnson, has the story.

SETH WILLIAMS: --try to find a way to use my professional experience and my own personal life journey.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams spoke with passion about his big second chance. He's now the program director of the Herbert J. Hoelter Vocational Training Center at 8th and Girard in North Philadelphia. The mission is all about second chances.

SETH WILLIAMS: Vocational training for a career path is one of the greatest ways to prevent crime.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: For Williams, his new role is personal after serving three years in federal prison on a bribery conviction.

SETH WILLIAMS: And my relationship and my faith now is much greater and deeper with God.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: The center in Philadelphia will be modeled much like the one in Baltimore. Its nationwide initiative put on by the non-profit The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives. It helps veterans, people with intellectual disabilities, at-risk youth, and those with criminal records.

HERB HOELTER: We believe if we could change one life it changes their family's life.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: Participants receive 15 weeks of training in one of the five areas; heating, cooling, and plumbing services, automotive, truck driving, culinary arts, and drones. But many say this program is crucial in Philadelphia with the homicide rate spiking.

DAVID OH: It's about people who don't have the spirit, the confidence, the drive to get up.

JOHN WETZEL: What people coming out of prison need is the same thing the kids at Penn, and Drexel, and Harvard, and all these other places.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: The center officially opens Monday and already 40 students have signed up. Like the one in Baltimore, Philadelphia hopes to boast the same success of having 75% job placement.

SETH WILLIAMS: Get a lot of people that had criminal records, and gave them an opportunity, and they never went back to prison.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: The new Vocational Training Center, for many, including its director, is a fresh start and second chance. In North Philadelphia, Ashley Johnson, Channel 6, "Action News."