(CNN) - At Friday morning’s White House event on the issue of long term unemployment, President Obama will be introduced by a California man named Erick Varela who served as a combat infantryman in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq, according to a White House official who shared Erick’s personal story with CNN.
When Erick, a skilled heavy equipment operator, left the Army in 2008 and returned home to Manteca, in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the housing crisis was in full swing and he was unable to find work. He applied at fast food restaurants and in retail but couldn’t find a job. His financial situation became so dire that he and his wife, Katey, lived out of their car when they could no longer afford to pay their rent.
Homeless, Erick continued his job search. He found out about California utility PG&E’s “PowerPathway” program, and he applied online. When he was ultimately accepted into the four month program, he and Katey drove to San Francisco so he could attend. They continued to live out of their car and, with nowhere else to go, Katey would often sit in the back of Erick’s classroom.
In 2009 Erick graduated and three weeks later he had set up interviews with contractors. He is now working in Tesla’s Tracy, California office as an Apprentice Electrician with PG&E. He and Katey have four small children, are nearly debt-free and plan to buy a house soon.