By Tracy Correa
Eight young adults in the Hinkley area began a new program today (Aug. 17) that will provide them with valuable career skills along with paid, on-the-job work experience.
Participants in the Hinkley Career Training Program gathered at the Hinkley Community Resource Center for the first day of classroom instruction where they worked on resumes and went over interview techniques. The program recently enrolled six men and two women, ages 18- to 24-years old, who have little or no job skills but want to find jobs.
The first-time program is funded by a $38,000 charitable grant from PG&E and is being administered by the Career Institute, which has an 18-year track record of career training and specializes on working with young adults.
“The program is designed to promote work readiness skills and help them get on a path for careers,” said Andrea Gooden, a manager in PG&E’s environmental remediation department and a project lead for a cross-functional team at PG&E that helped set up the program. “The hope is that these jobs turn into employment.”
Jobs, classroom training and field trips
The Hinkley Career Training Program will run nine weeks. It will provide part-time work (20 to 25 hours a week) at area businesses, classroom instruction on Fridays and conclude with a community service project. Students also will participate in field trips where they will engage with working professionals. A total commitment of 176 hours is expected and each participant will be paid $9 an hour.
The job-training program is much-needed in the Hinkley community, which suffers from an unemployment rate between 14 and 15 percent — and it’s even more difficult to find work for young people with limited job skills. The unincorporated San Bernardino County community in the Mojave Desert has less than 2,000 people and very few local businesses. That’s why program participants will largely be placed at job sites in Barstow – about 14 miles away.
The program is valuable, particularly for this age group, said Teresa Taylor, CEO of Career Institute.
“It’s the young adult, transitioning out of high school and not quite sure of what to do,” she said. “They need a helping hand.”
Matching jobs with interests
Careful thought is being put into job placement. The goal is to match the trainee in a career field they are interested in pursuing. For example, one student who wants to become a mechanic is scheduled to work for Barstow Towing. Another student is interested in working with animals and is slated to work for the Desert Discovery Center in Barstow. Not all of the placements have been secured, and the students will be required to go through an interview process with the employers.
‘We want this to be as real life and as instructional as possible,” said Taylor.
Gooden said the PG&E grant will cover salaries for the participants, so it’s no cost for employers to take part. Participants also will be provided a stipend to help purchase work clothes and cover transportation costs. “The idea is to try to remove any obstacle for having them show up on the job,” she said.
‘Jobs are very important’
Ray Gonzalez, PG&E’s senior government relations representative, works in Hinkley. He is a former chairman of the San Bernardino Employment Training Agency and a long-time member of the County Workforce Development Board.
That background gives him a keen understanding of the needs of the local community.
“We know jobs are very important to Hinkley residents, and we’re glad that we could make this program happen very quickly to help meet those needs,” Gonzalez said.
The idea for the jobs program came from needs expressed by the Community Advisory Committee in Hinkley. As part of its continuing efforts to support the people of Hinkley as it cleans up material left over from use at a gas compressor plant decades ago, PG&E helped form a Community Advisory Committee last year to address the community’s unique needs.
Ultimately, the hope is that those who complete the program gain the necessary skills to find employment – possibly where they may have trained.
“We hope that we give them a set of skills that will take them beyond this and provide them with a sense of community and giving,” said Gooden.
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com.