Unique Program Helps You Earn up to $21 an Hour After A Free, 12- Week Training
When you think of a job in the construction industry, you may not think of soft skills. Some examples are work ethic, conflict resolution and leadership. Soft skills are just one key element of the unique training at Fresno EOC Valley Apprenticeship Connections, also known as VAC.
Former Fresno City Councilman, Oliver Baines, says he launched the VAC program in 2015 because he was hitting roadblocks when trying to help residents in West Fresno find a job. As a result, he designed VAC after meeting with Central Valley construction contractors to determine their hiring needs.
Trainee, Luis Galvez, says the program is life-changing. “It gets our mind off the streets, making a positive change in the community.” Luis says he learned about the program from his probation officer after running into trouble with the law.
VAC officials partner with several local organizations to recruit trainees, including the Fresno County Department of Social Services, the Fresno County Probation Department and the State Center Community College District. But anyone can apply to become a trainee through the Fresno EOC Valley Apprenticeship Connections online application.
Luis says he is now ready to build a future. “And you know, I had to realize that it was time to make a change. Not only for me, but for my family. I have a small daughter, and I had to realize in my head that, you know, if I can learn to provide now I will be able to provide in the future. So, that’s what it came down to. My mom’s getting older. She’s still working two jobs. I don’t see her much. So, I just want to relieve her from that stress, you know. I just want to be that son that she wants.”
Just three things are required of trainees. They must have reliable transportation, must be at an 8th grade level for reading and math, and they must be at least 18 years old. There is no financial burden on the student trainee. Program Manager, Amalia Martinez, points out that “Tuition is paid and materials and uniforms are provided by the program.”
No one is turned away. Baines said VAC is a second-chance program and accepts people from all walks of life. “We don’t judge you by your age. We look at what you will be able to do. The oldest person to complete the training was 61 years old.”
Participants recently worked on-site to renovate a mobile home in Fresno for a domestic violence survivor and her three children. With guidance from contractors, they painted her home and built a structure to house her washer and dryer. The trainees in this cohort also spent many hours working to renovate the historic Helm building on Fulton Street.
There is also a classroom portion of the program, which includes first aid, CPR, hazardous materials training and blueprint reading. Participants will graduate with nine certifications.
VAC also uses a curriculum which teaches soft skills, called “Thinking for A Change.” It teaches lessons on many social and work interactions from how to negotiate to how to apologize. Will Jackson, the program’s Lead Facilitator said, “The curriculum is designed to make a student a better employee, the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they conduct themselves. It covers all the requirements and skills they will need at a job site.”
Trainees can earn up to $21 an Hour, on average. Participants must be dedicated and driven to succeed in the free, 12-week course. They have training Monday through Friday and participants will have two random drug tests during the course of the program.
After graduation, participants are matched with a local employer and are able to begin a career in construction. Some graduates have gone on to work at places like Traffic Management, Inc., Fresno Plumbing and Heating, West Valley Construction, and Lyles Utility Construction.
Luis is set to graduate in late October. He says, “I know it takes a lot of sacrifice but with these credentials that they’re going to give us, we’ll be able to put our foot in the door anywhere.”
If you would like more information or to sign up for the next cohort, visit the Fresno EOC Valley Apprenticeship Connections webpage. VAC hosts three cohorts per year with 20 to 25 trainees, on average.
If you are interested in a career in manufacturing, you can sign up for the Manufacturing Maintenance Mechanic Program. The next cohort launches November 15 at Madera Community College.
Fresno EOC Training and Employment Program
VAC Construction pre-apprenticeship program
Fresno EOC Training and Employment Program
VAC Manufacturing Maintenance Mechanic Program