Ed Ramirez says he’s grateful for the sheet metal vocational skills he mastered in San Quentin State Prison. He says they opened the door to an opportunity of a lifetime when he was paroled seven years ago.
Union representative Frank Cuneo accompanied Ramirez on a recent visit to his former prison shop. He commented, “Ed’s achievements have been nothing short of remarkable. He has accomplished so much, but it all began right here at San Quentin, in this shop.”
Cuneo told the current shop students, “You can do the same thing, if you want it. It’s possible to earn an $80 an hour employment package if you’re willing to do the work.”
Ramirez served 23 years at San Quentin before he was paroled in May 2005. He excelled in the vocational class, perfecting his skills under the tutelage of instructor Keith Baughn.
Upon parole, Ramirez applied for a sheet metal apprenticeship. Although he had developed advanced abilities in the trade, he had to begin at the bottom rung, starting with the application process, and advancing through a successful five-year apprenticeship program to obtain journeyman status.
“Ed’s achievements have been nothing short of remarkable. It all started here at San Quentin.”
Ramirez returned to San Quentin to share his personal success story. He described what he had been able to accomplish since leaving prison with a little determination and hard work. He encouraged students to apply themselves seriously, and told them about the realities of what they could expect once they paroled.
“It wasn’t easy, starting at the bottom, once I got out. But this program gave me a huge advantage over the other applicants. I could identify the tools and recognize the work processes that put me miles ahead of everyone else. I had to be patient and work my way up. I showed up on time prepared for work. I developed a reputation for producing quality work, because that is your signature to employers,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez stated he got his priorities straightened out. “When I was in prison, I used to hate those painted yellow lines telling me where the boundaries are. Now, I paint those boundary lines around myself to keep me safe.”
Cuneo emphasized the need to be dependable. He detailed the minimum qualifications necessary to begin the application process, such as, age, a clean DMV record, and reliable transportation, as well as an aptitude for basic math.