Paving the Way for a Better Future

Photo: Joel Matusof

Joel Matusof has 25 years of construction experience, but he didn’t start off with formal training. Born Deaf to Deaf parents, he grew up working with family and friends, observing and learning the trade. Now, he is motivated to start a community program that will give others the same learning experience.

“I learned…construction knowledge with just two years of visual instruction,” he said. “Currently, Deaf students don’t have the same opportunity to receive visual instruction in construction-related fields. There are no after-school activities and an apprenticeship program would go a long way in giving them needed experiences.”

Joel hopes to establish a partnership with a state agency, community college, or private organization that would fund and set up the program. Prospective students would apply. Ideally, it would be free, and they would also be provided with the tools needed for them to complete the jobs. Under-aged students would need permission and a workers permit. Students who drop out of the program would need to return the tools.

The hands-on experience wouldn’t only give apprentices the opportunity to learn construction skills, but also provide the training they need for a potentially good paying job in the future. If students are successful at completing the program, they would get to keep the tools as a reward.

According to Joel, other local Deaf construction workers could serve as mentors for the apprenticeship. Together they would work in conjunction with a local company, Manu Aloha Woodworks, to identify potential apprenticeship sites. With multiple mentors to learn under, students would have access to a great deal of information regarding renovations, electrical appliances, installations, developments, and even life skills. Students and mentors would work alongside each other at actual job sites.

The program would begin on Oahu. However, if successful, it could expand to have mentors on Neighbor Islands.

Ideally, once students “graduate,” they would stay involved by becoming mentors themselves.

Each mentor has a different experience and specialty, but the program would be geared to give the community access to more opportunities. By creating this program, one hope is that it will inspire others to make other programs with special trades, thus giving the community more opportunities.

Joel realizes some prefer to live off of other forms of income. “Many Deaf people are on welfare and they get used to it,” he explained. “Once they try working, they realize they prefer social security checks over doing actual work.”

Although it was hard to start off in the construction field, Joel realized that the first referral was crucial to gaining more job offers. “It is about equal access and opportunity,” he said. “Then, it is about being a savvy business person and doing good work – quality service doesn’t discriminate.”

Joel’s passion and ideas are inspiration for the program itself and although the goal is to give more access to programs and opportunities, he really wants to inspire kids and others to work and show that they can do anything.

“I want to encourage Deaf people to believe they are capable of anything a hearing person can do,” Joel said. “We should strive to be active, and we should be encouraged to try different work experiences. Eventually we find what our skills are, and that will allow us to live productive, independent lives.” Joel chuckled, and then concluded, matter-of-factly, “I just want to see a better future in the Deaf community.”

Joel has a handyman service. If you are interest in hiring him, or if you can help make his vision of a construction mentoring program come to life, please contact him at (808) 779-1814 (text only), (808) 447-1981 (office), or email