Valley Works: Rail project offers training opportunities

FRESNO, Calif.

Officials are rushing to train local job-seekers so they will be prepared to work on the first phase of the rail project.

Officials with the Fresno Workforce Investment Board say they only have enough money to train 325 people. They will be seeking additional funding to train more job-seekers.

What do you need to do to increases your chances of being selected? Be willing to work hard, show up on time and be drug free.

An exciting time for some students. They are finishing up their first year in an apprenticeship program to become electricians.

Those like 28 year old Jane' Roloff, are thrilled at the prospect of being among those who will get to work on the high speed rail project.

"There is a classification of worker called hauling and grubbing and those workers will go out and clear brush, remove debris, take down trees, where the rail will go through," Workforce Investment Board Director Blake Konczal said.

Konczal says a 1.5 million dollar grant, which is being shared with Kern and Stanislaus Counties, will be used to train workers for those jobs. The WIB is using its one stop centers to screen candidates for pre-apprenticeship programs taught by the trade unions.

"They will run through a six week program they will get a full set of soft skills they will also learn the basics of construction, job site safety, what to look for in hazards forklift," IBEW business manager Kevin Cole said.

Cole says those workers will receive additional training with the individual craft unions such as laborers and operating engineers.

The trainees will learn just enough to get them job ready, but the ultimate goal is for them to enter into a full apprenticeship program with one of the trades.

"If a guy goes through this program and is successful with getting on the high speed rail, we're not talking 4 years; we are talking a 40 year career," Cole said,

Union officials say they will eventually need thousands of skilled workers to help build the bullet train, and thanks to an agreement involving high speed rail officials and the federal government, local residents will be getting some of those jobs.

The national mandate requires a certain percentage of work go to people who live in areas of high unemployment, and to those who are disadvantaged, including veterans.

Konczal says without the agreement there would be no guarantee that local residents would get job opportunities.

"The single largest public infrastructure project in the history of the state of California is coming through counties that have the highest unemployment in the U.S. Our people have to have a chance to wet their beak with these jobs," Konczal said.

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