After graduating from high school, Baltimore City resident Travis Roberston bounced from job to job, searching for a situation that would provide long-term stability, a place to thrive, and a nurturing environment. Things got more challenging when he became a single father.
His life took a turn for the better when a former high school teacher recommended that he enroll in an eight-week, real estate training program with Urban Alliance Baltimore.
A local affiliate of a national organization, the alliance provides skills training, mentorship, and paid work experiences to young people with a goal of building the next generation of diverse talent, said Executive Director Chas Ackley.
Focusing on under-resourced communities, Urban Alliance Baltimore graduates approximately 20 students from its Property Management sequence annually. To date, the alliance has provided nearly 1,000 students in the Baltimore area with paid internships and provided training to an additional 2,000 young people. AION Management, Greystar, Continental Realty Corporation (CRC), The Cordish Companies and MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services are among the companies involved locally.
A job, a future, a place to live
After completing the program that taught core competency skills, Robertson entered a six-month internship with CRC that prepared him for training to perform property maintenance functions for a multifamily community in Baltimore County. After the internship, CRC offered Robertson a full-time position as a maintenance technician at the Courthouse Square apartment community in Towson, as well as a place to live.
CRC has offered internships to more than 20 graduates and has hired four as full-time employees.
“Travis demonstrated dependability and reliability and those are the attributes that we look for in a team member,” said Crystal Frey, CRC’s Senior Vice President for Human Resources. “In a short amount of time, Travis has evolved into the face and spokesperson for the Urban Alliance program, which is remarkable.”
“The entire experience with Urban Alliance and CRC has been life-altering,” explained Robertson. “Urban Alliance cared about me as a professional and as a person, and prepared me well for the day-to-day activities I would be expected to perform. CRC, in turn, presented me with an amazing opportunity to work in a career I truly love and am passionate about. CRC provided me with a family-oriented environment, great mentors, and an affordable apartment in a place where I work every day.”
Building a next-generation workforce
Like other owners of multifamily communities, CRC faces a constant challenge to recruit and retain talent for trade positions.
“There remains incredible competition for maintenance and technician professionals, due to the lack of young people interested in these careers, combined with the increased need for these skilled workers to service multifamily communities,” Frey added.
MacKenzie Management has been involved with the Urban Alliance program for more than three years, has sponsored five interns, and hired several maintenance technicians with tremendous success, explained Mike Columbus, Vice President of Operations. “The talent that comes our way is pre-vetted, successfully trained to tackle and perform the required work and, maybe most importantly, possess the professionalism and maturity that we are looking for.”
“Having the suitable skillset is only half the game,” he said. “To properly represent our organization, it is vital to hire professionals that show up for work every day, have refined communication skills and act appropriately. To help ease the transition, we partner new employees with a seasoned member of our team to help create the whole package and acts as a role model. We have been extremely pleased with the entire experience.”