Worker Profile: Nathan Covington

As a demolition team member for the construction of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital and second district native and current resident, Nathan Covington feels like life is going his way again.  Being a part of the demolition crew gives him an opportunity to rebuild his construction career while learning the skills in the demolition field.  “I have high hopes working here,” says Covington, 46.  “I’m learning about different machinery that I’ve never used.”  Raised by a single mother in the second district, Covington grew up with very little direction. Although he’s the youngest of three brothers, he didn’t find many positive male figures in his neighborhood. “Growing up in South Central was tough,” he says. “I didn’t have a lot of role models or guidance.” At age 13, Covington ditched school daily and was later ordered to stay in Juvenile Hall. Unwilling to learn his lesson there, he eventually returned, spending most of his teenage years either staying there or the California Youth Authority. In an effort to straighten his life after turning eighteen, he moved to New York to live with his older brother, a military police officer. But after returning to Los Angeles a year later, Covington began hanging out with the “wrong crowd” and got involved in a drug case, leading to a three-year prison sentence. He ultimately spent the next twelve years in and out of jail for a series of other crimes.

[pullquote_right]”I felt blessed because I needed employment to survive,” said Nathan Covington.[/pullquote_right]After serving his last prison sentence three years ago, Covington engaged in a heart to heart discussion with his mother. He confessed that he wanted to change his life, but he didn’t know how because he never had a focus. Encouraged by his supportive mother and strengthened by his spiritual conversion, Covington found a job at a trucking company and enrolled in a welding course at a local community college. Despite being later forced to quit his job due to an injury, he continued his studies and began frequenting job fairs, where he first learned about PVJOBS. While seeking job counseling at the Southeast L.A. Watts Worksource Center, Covington applied for construction work with PVJOBS, landing a laborer position at the Playa Vista development project a short time later.  He was promoted to a foreman within a year.  However, he left three years later after enduring a series of sudden deaths in his family.  “I went under,” he remembers.  “I stopped working.  I fell off the radar.”

Grief stricken, Covington spent the next four years working on his own as a carpenter.  When work slowed due to the recession, he found it difficult to enter the mainstream job market since he had more than a decade of prison sentences on his record.  So he decided to revisit PVJOBS, which led to a five-week assignment at Playa Vista.  Covington didn’t receive another construction job assignment for more than a year.  Yet, he remained persistent and continued to stay in touch with the job program while taking courses through the Laborers Union.  Days after passing the union’s construction safety course, he was offered a job at the hospital development site.  “I felt blessed because I needed employment to survive,” says Covington.  “Most people like me, who have a prison record, don’t get a chance like this.”

Nowadays, Covington spends his weekdays working hard overseeing his laborer team while attending night classes at Trade Tech to study blue print reading and construction technology. He also happens to be one of the first residents to live at Playa Vista’s Foundation Park Apartments on the west border of the second district, where he’s enjoyed visits from his eight-year-old son and fifteen-year-old daughter.

Covington uses his newfound focus to fuel his growing career. “Even though I’m tired at times, I keep striving because I want something to share with my kids,” he says.  “I’m overjoyed by this opportunity. I smile everyday.”