Job Training Program Turns Young Woman into Entrepreneur

Written by: Kim R. Noble, Program Associate

When 24-year-old Aisha Dorsey enrolled in a Baltimore job training program, she never expected that it would lead her to launch her own business. 

But that’s exactly what happened. Dorsey had always been interested in environmental issues. She was studying at Baltimore City Community College when she heard about Baltimore Civic Works’ Green Career Pathways program.

The program focused on training folks who were chronically unemployed or faced barriers to employment—like ex-offenders. Dorsey was neither. Ambitious and successful, she’d been president of her high school and editor of the school newspaper. Though she didn’t fit the typical profile, she saw promise in the green economy, so she persisted and enrolled in the program.

She graduated from the Civic Works’ B’More Green Brownfields program in 2011, receiving multiple certifications for environmental remediation work. After leaving the program, she spent time in the field doing environmental remediation work. She quickly realized there was a need for a new kind of company—one that prioritized worker and client safety.

So, in 2012 Dorsey launched Lifeline Environmental, LLC, dedicated to helping homeowners and businesses deal with dangerous substances like asbestos, mold, and lead.

“These are very overwhelming issues,” Dorsey explains. “Some people have asbestos all over their basement. You can’t tackle it by yourself. You need certified, competent people to help.”

She finds great satisfaction in helping make her hometown of Baltimore healthier.

“You can see the relief on people’s faces when we finish a job,” she says. “To live with asbestos, mold, or lead is definitely a health issue. People get sick. It’s not like you’re just going get a cold. You’re at risk for cancer. It’s something that needs to be handled.”

One of the best parts of starting the business, according to Dorsey, was the opportunity to give back to her community—not just by making buildings safer, but by giving Baltimore something it really needs: Jobs.

After launching Lifeline Environmental, Dorsey went back to B’More Green and hired six graduates of the same program she’d finished. She knew they would be well-trained, and prepared to focus on safety, a priority for her company. And she knew first-hand just how much dedication was needed to finish the training.

“Everybody in the program works very hard. You’re there from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some people go to other jobs at the end of the day.”

The program provided something else, too—something Dorsey drew on when she decided to start her own business: Confidence. When she went back to B’More Green as an employer, she was inspired and impressed by the number of trainees who were confident in their new skills and eager to get to work.

"Some people who can’t find work may just need a larger skill set. Baltimore Civic Works invests in them and trusts them, she explains. “You leave that program on a high note.”

For Dorsey, there’s no question about the value and need for more job training programs.

“Traditional education may leave some people behind,” she says. “If we have more opportunities for people to grow and find their way, you’ll see it help the community. It creates economic growth.”

The attitude of trainees who leave the program, she says, is “’I’m trained, I’m ready, I just need an opportunity to shine.’”

And Lifeline Environmental is giving it to them.

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