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News April 18, 2018

Million-dollar grant will expand high school construction program

The Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation Sonoma County has been approved for a $1 million grant from Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit that fights poverty in the Bay Area, to help expand North Bay Construction Corps (NBCC), a successful local youth training program, according to The funding is part of the organization's Emergency Relief Fund, which was established to support the North Bay's recovery and rebuilding efforts after devastating fires damaged thousands of homes and businesses in 2017.

The funds will be used to enhance and expand the NBCC training program in response to the increased workforce needs in construction as the North Bay begins to rebuild. The grant will leverage and supplement the current support for the NBCC program in Sonoma County and will provide for future expansion into neighboring counties.

NBCC is a five-month training program that introduces high school seniors to careers and jobs in construction in various trades. The program is in its second year and currently consists of 37 young men and women who are in their last semester of high school.

Classes meet one night a week and one Saturday a month and are exclusively taught by local construction industry representatives to expose students to a variety of trades and multiple employers. Students learn the fundamentals of tool handling, safety, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, solar and more. They also earn certifications in forklift and scissor lift operation, OSHA 10-hour course, and CPR/First Aid, giving them an advantage upon completion as they seek entry level work or further training, such as an apprenticeship.

In addition to trade-based technical skills, students learn and apply soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, leadership and handling deadlines.

The program culminates in a two-week boot camp during the summer that allows students to practice their skills and experience firsthand the daily work life in the industry while earning a stipend.

The CTE Foundation will work with the North Coast Builders Exchange to develop and execute programs in Napa and Lake counties, as well as coordinate expansion of an existing Mendocino County Construction Corps program that began earlier this year. Additional interest and funding has been pledged to support expansion into Marin County, as well.

In addition to funding the multicounty expansion of the program, the Tipping Point Emergency Relief Fund donation provides funding to meet a local grant challenge to expand the program within Sonoma County. A group of local funders has collectively donated $200,000 to be offered as a challenge match to the public. An additional $200,000 is needed to support the Sonoma County program through 2020 and would potentially fund a total of eight cohorts, serving up to 240 high school seniors.

"For those not directly impacted by the fires, it might be easy to think of the tragedy that we faced last October as long past," said Karen Fies, director of Sonoma County Human Services and CTE Foundation board chair. "Yet there are thousands of displaced residents that want to go back to their homes, and the only way they can do that is if we have a strong workforce of construction and trades professionals to put the pieces back together."


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