Expanding Access to Construction Careers in Silicon Valley

June 29, 2016 -- Jamie Way

In less than a year, San Jose resident Lisa Rhodes went from living in a halfway house on probation to starting a new career at one of the biggest, most cutting-edge construction projects in Silicon Valley. Through a coalition program of affiliate Working Partnerships USA, Lisa was introduced to various apprenticeship opportunities. She applied and was accepted to the Cement Masons program, where she started working on the new Apple headquarters “spaceship” campus. Now she has health care and a pension and earns time off and overtime.

Thanks to the efforts of Working Partnerships USA and the Santa Clara County Building Trades Council, more working people will have access to the kind of program that helped Lisa find her job. In April, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a new initiative to help provide access to family-supporting, career-path jobs. The new community workforce agreement establishes an innovative model for expanding access to good jobs to disadvantaged local community members on all public construction projects of $2 million or more. These agreements will both protect workers' health, safety, and rights in the workplace, and create entry-level job opportunities that give low-income parents, at-risk youth, and other disadvantaged workers the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a construction apprenticeship and a lifelong, family-supporting career.

If other South Bay cities and agencies follow the County’s lead, similar initiatives could help create more than 18,000 good jobs over the next five years. The Valley Transportation Authority, which provides public transportation in the area, is already following suit and plans to expand the innovative targeted hire and construction firm approach.

Learn more about apprenticeship programs and opportunities here.