Friday night was graduation night for many who had been trained in the LDS Church construction program here (most of whom are returned missionaries).
It was an interesting night– much like any graduation, with each graduate coming forward to accept their diploma, while we all clapped and cheered. Many came up with their wife or mother to share in the proud moment (keep in mind that for some, this might be the only graduation ceremony they will ever experience).
Interesting because it was also like a church meeting: it began with a song and prayer, and those who had been asked to speak (representing their class of graduates: masons, electricians, welders, carpenters, etc.), used the opportunity to bear their testimony concerning the truth of the gospel. Since their were many non-Mormons there, it gave them the opportunity to experience a taste of the Mormon religion.
The man sitting next to me was a Pentacostal Christian– each time he heard something he agreed with during the talks, he raised his hand in the air and praised God! It was great.
Each graduate will be given a set of tools associated with their specific trade: masons get a trowel, chalk lines, a level, etc.; welders got a small welding machine, etc. This is very big, as the set of tools, under normal conditions, could have cost them 6-12 months wages! By giving them their own tools to use, they can go out and begin work immediately.
There is no way of describing how excited the graduates were, and how much this program can, and does, mean to them. It will change their lives forever, and give them a leg-up over many in their communities– they not only have a trade, but tools to work with.
The program is inspired, and is still getting all the bugs worked out; the church provides training to returned missionaries (and some local members) in various construction trades. It is a three step program: 3 months in class training, 3 months on the job training by an LDS instructor, and another 3 month on the job training by a construction company. The on the job training is building local LDS churches. Part of the contract with the construction company is their use and training of these students.