Up From The Factory Floor

In 1987, Gwendolyn Vanover was headed for chronic unemployment. Recently widowed, with one son, the 36-year-old Detroit resident had last held a steady job a decade earlier. Then, she entered a training program run by Focus: HOPE, a Detroit-based civil-rights group. After nine months there, Vanover landed a machinist's job at Gentz Industries Inc. in Warren, Mich., that eventually paid $9.50 an hour. Now, she wants more. Vanover has enrolled in a six-year program that Focus: HOPE is starting for graduates of its Machinists Training Institute, one of the country's most successful such programs. If Vanover hangs in, she'll get the equivalent of a master's degree in engineering. "If I stayed at my old job," she says, "I would have just been a lathe operator."

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