San Francisco foundation helps ex-offenders gain apprenticeships

Anders and Anders

Joshua Shane Worstell is one of more than 2,000 people helped by the foundation operated by Terry Anders.

For many leaving prison getting an apprenticeship can be a great way to reenter society. And Anders and Anders, a small San Francisco foundation, is helping those in reentry do just that in a big way.

It would be difficult to find someone more qualified than the founder, Terry Anders. Formerly incarcerated himself, he robbed seven banks to support an addiction to alcohol and cocaine. But that was a long time ago – another lifetime. (He got out of prison at age 27.)

“I was over on the other side for many years. Then I got into the ironworkers Local 377, and they were very instrumental in turning my life around,” Anders says.

Trades give sense of self-worth

“All I knew was the street and jails and the penitentiary. But having a trade and getting a job that was very meaningful gave me a sense of self-worth that I could be something. I could do something that’s larger than myself. Not one person puts up a building. I learned to work with others in a meaningful positive way. The trades gave me a foundation that I cherish.”

Anders got into the trades in the early 1970s and spent many years with the iron workers union. But he was always thinking about what he could do to give back to society.

Breaking the cycle of recidivism with jobs

“I created Anders and Anders in 2005, because I saw the opportunity to help ex-offenders, particularly people of color in marginalized neighborhoods who needed a support system to do something with their lives. I want to break the cycle of recidivism with job opportunities. It gives me the possibility to get beyond myself and help people in meaningful ways like the union did for me,” he says.

Anders says his goal now is to help people that he identifies with. He wants to support those who don’t have a particular job or trade and works in what he calls marginal neighborhoods of San Francisco, like Hunters Point and Visitation Valley, Potrero Hill, the Fillmore and certain pockets of Chinatown.

“Anders and Anders can show you, can walk you through the process, can give you the understanding that if you do this, this and this, this, this and this will happen for you,” Anders says. “I give a lot of my personal money today, because the grant money I have working with the city is very limited.”

Helps people enter unions

Anders helps people get into unions and get jobs through CityBuild, a San Francisco workforce development construction training program. He also has been a community monitor, visiting worksites to make sure there are workers from different Zip Codes and different genders. “When I go to a job site, I look at not those who are working but those who are not working there,” he says.

In the 14 years since he started his San Francisco foundation, Anders has helped more than 2,000 people. “What’s more important instead of the quantitative number, however, is that I have helped that one who had lost their way along the way. That way I can focus,” Anders says. “I do what I do because I’m glad that I can do that. Because I remember when I wouldn’t cross the street for another human being. It was all about take, take, take, because I had been abused and refused.”

The story of one who Anders helped

One of the people he has helped is Joshua Shane Worstell, and Joshua’s story shows how far Anders will go to make sure some people succeed.

Worstell was a lifer, incarcerated for 20 years. While in prison he did everything he could to improve himself, including learning how to weld. After finding Anders’ address in the book “Getting Out and Staying Out,” Worstell wrote to him. Anders started writing to the parole board and said he would get Joshua into the union.

“When I got out I gave him a call,” Worstell says. “Mr. Anders came and picked me up. We’d go for a run and talk about what I needed to do. He took me to the various stores to get the tools I needed and got me into the union. And he took me to go get things to eat and called me to make sure things were all right. He really welcomed me back into the community. When I got into a job and needed some tools I didn’t have, he went to the store and got them and brought them to me at lunch.”

Anders and Anders went beyond being just a San Francisco foundation. Terry Anders became Joshua Worstell’s friend.

Commercial motor coach companies offer employment opportunities for ex-offenders

motor coach drivers

Alicia Nolan went from being a lifer in prison to a life as a motor coach driver.

Formerly incarcerated people often become discouraged in their search for employment, facing obstacles that may be hard to overcome. While many jobs are closed to them, a tight job market and new attitudes are forcing change among certain companies and industries. Like motor coach drivers. They’re in high demand. And many companies are eager to hire people who have records.

Take Alicia Nolan, for example. She works for Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area driving buses for Gillead Pharmaceuticals. Yes, those buses. The ones that take tech workers from the Silicon Valley to San Francisco and other places where passengers live.

Her current job is an extreme contrast to what took her to prison in the late 1980s. Nolan was a lifer, incarcerated for 24 years in Chowchilla, Calif., after being convicted of second-degree homicide as the driver of a car carrying a drive-by shooter.

But that was long ago, and Nolan has a new life. After gaining parole in 2013, she started driving for Google, her first job out of prison. The company provided her with a brand new Prius, and she delivered packages on the Google campus in Mountain View.

Get paid while training to be a motor coach driver

Her next job was with MV Transportation, then Gray Line, and after that she assumed her current position with Bauer, where her title is professional chauffeur/trainer. Her company offers a full training program for motor coach drivers, and they get paid during their training.

“You can get a class C permit by going to the DMV and taking the written test. But then you go to Bauer’s or MV Transportation, any company that has a training program, they will train you. You come with a clean driving record and permit, you get training pay rates when you’re in training. It can take anywhere from four to six weeks,” she says.

But it’s not easy driving a big motor coach. “After four to six weeks if you can’t do it, you’re not going to get it. Driving a big motor coach is really hard, and there’s a lot of things to learn before you drive.”

Nolan doesn’t feel that people with criminal records face barriers in the bus driving business, especially in San Francisco.

“They will hire an ex-felon before they will hire anybody, because they know they’re going to be at work. They know that they can rely on us,” Nolan says. “And Bauer’s will hire them. All the transportation companies will hire them. I went from making $12.75 at Google to $28.88 an hour, and when I do overtime I make $43 an hour.”

Good job for people in reentry

Being a commercial motor coach driver is a good job for someone in reentry, according to Nolan.

“It gives you some good customer service experience. For me I found a way that I can give back to the community every day. I come in contact with people every day. I have had some of the same passengers for 4-1/2 years. I’ll see my old passengers on campus, and they’ll wave at me,” she says. “People drive for different reasons. I went to prison as a driver, but at least I’m now driving precious cargo. Every mile I drive is dedicated to my victim.”

While being trained by motor coach companies may be one way to become a commercial bus driver, it’s certainly not the only one. Workforce Development Boards, for example, connect people to a variety of types of training and, in some cases, pay for that training including for professional drivers.

Located around the country, these organizations are funded through the U.S. Dept. of Labor and direct funding to workforce development.

Charles Brown, III, business services representative and reentry coordinator for the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County in California, says that his WDB connects people to transportation logistics training for professional Class A and Class B drivers.

Shortage of drivers means more opportunities for jobs

“Right now we don’t have enough drivers in the marketplace. We can’t train them fast enough,” he says. “Our training is eight weeks, and the trainers need to be on our eligibility list. I deal with fair chance employers and help organizations become trainers. We want to make sure that the person is a returning resident and that they can clear licensing.”

While many transport companies are willing to hire formerly incarcerated drivers, various state laws prevent people with certain kinds of felony convictions, like vehicular manslaughter, from getting commercial licenses.

The industry, however, is welcoming. And it provides excellent employment opportunities with decent wages.

There are also opportunities for those who might be more interested in driving a truck than a bus. San Francisco’s Mochary Foundation pays for truck driving training for those who been incarcerated. You can find out more by visiting the foundation’s website.