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Maira Hernandez and Kylee Henson are celebrating success with Fresno EOC Valley Apprenticeship Connections (VAC). VAC is a job training program with a focus on careers in construction. Both women graduated on June 16.The grads say they applied for VAC, because they were seeking new career opportunities. Kylee worked in retail for a long time but needed a higher paying job. “I’m a single mom of four kids. And I knew I needed something that was going to take care of my family.” Maira was looking for a career change, as well. “I was driving a big rig truck and looking for something else, something where I wasn’t on the road all the time.”

VAC trainees must be driven to succeed in the free, but intense 12-week course which is designed to support the hiring needs of Central Valley’s construction contractors. Participants will graduate with nine certifications, including Work Zone Safety/Traffic Control, OSHA 10, Hazardous Waste Initial Course, Flagging, and Blueprint Reading. The Monday through Friday training also includes construction math, conflict resolution, daily physical education, and timed work assessments.

Women make up just 10.9% of the people working in the construction industry, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Kylee and Maira were the only women in a cohort of 17 VAC grads. Amalia Martinez, Program Manager for VAC says the program is challenging, but they have seen great success with the women trainees. “The training is intense, whether you are male or female. But, the women have been very successful in the trainings. We welcome anyone who is willing to put in the work.”

Kylee says VAC can open doors to a number of different careers in construction. “When I came into the program, I wanted to get into carpentry. I wasn’t going to budge on that. But VAC opened my eyes to how many different trades are out there. So many different opportunities. So, I still want to get into carpentry, but I’m open to doing electrical work or being an electrician.”

Maira is looking into traffic safety. “As of right now, I want to get into traffic control just to get my foot in the door. And then maybe eventually, getting on with the heavy equipment operators union, since I already have some experience with heavy equipment. Eventually, I would like to be an electrician, so I know you have to take a lot of courses for that, as well.”

Maira says she was skeptical about the program at the beginning, but VAC turned her around. “At first, I thought, ‘I don’t know about this.’ I wondered if they would be able to help us. But, after we started getting guest speakers from the trade unions, we got more motivated. Then, we started going to the work sites and doing hands-on projects. And slowly I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, we’re going to do this, you know?” And now, it’s like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this program has brought us all the way here now.’ It feels really good.”

Kylee said she was excited to go home and show her children what she was able to accomplish with their support. “It’s been kinda hard because I would go to work after the VAC training. So, I’ve been having four- hours of sleep at night and long days. Up at five, asleep at one. They’ve hung in there with me and it’s been a rough ride. But it’s another reason why I appreciate the program because my kids watched me work really hard for something that I wanted. And it was hopefully a learning experience, showing them that you can achieve something if you work for it.”

VAC is accepting applications for its next cohort in Fresno, which starts

January 3, 2023. Trainees must have reliable transportation, must be at an 8th grade level for reading and math, and they must be at least 18 years old. For more information about the VAC Program, click here or call (559) 263-1110.

About Fresno EOC Valley Apprenticeship Connections (VAC)

Fresno EOC Valley Apprenticeship Connections (VAC) supports the hiring needs of our Central Valley’s construction contractors. VAC students are immersed in a free 12-week training program to prepare them for the workforce. The program includes a Monday-Friday schedule from 7am to 3pm, hands-on training at job sites, a personal journey of self-evaluation, behavioral change curriculum, soft skill attainment, daily physical education, and construction math. Trainees will also have meet-and-greet introductions with trade unions, including the Associated Builders and Contractors. In addition, random drug testing will occur twice during the training.

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