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Marin workforce training program for Latinos bolstered by $524K grant

April 30, 2023

By Adrian Rodriguez| Marin IJ

Golden Gate Transit bus driver Nathan Calderon gets on a bus in San Rafael on Thursday, April 27, 2023. Calderon is a recent graduate of a Canal Alliance workforce program. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Before Nathan Calderon became a bus operator for Golden Gate Transit, he was working three jobs to make ends meet.

“Now I’m making more than those three jobs combined,” said Calderon, 23, who grew up in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood. “And it’s a huge difference, working one job instead of three. And I can stay here, grow here, have a career.”

Calderon said he owes his thanks to Canal Alliance, which partnered with the transit agency and Santa Rosa Junior College to enroll him in a pre-apprenticeship program. After beginning courses last fall, Calderon has already graduated, landed a job and has a career path, he said.

It’s a success story Canal Alliance, a San Rafael nonprofit that provides services for the immigrant community, wants to duplicate time and time again, the organization’s leaders said. With the support of a $524,161 grant, the nonprofit’s workforce development programs can carry forward and expand into new career fields.

Since launching in 2018, the workforce program has served 264 participants. The funding will support 80 more enrollees.

“We launched this program because we saw a gap in the services that provide training and career opportunities for low-income Latinos,” said Sara Matson, director of development at Canal Alliance. She said the goal is to break the generational cycle of poverty.

The funding also enables Canal Alliance staff to provide “wraparound” services such as case management, job placement support and ensuring students are enrolled in classes and attending classes, Matson said. This funding is the largest grant the nonprofit has received for the program, which frees up general funds to use in other efforts, Matson said.

The grant, part of the Assembly Bill 628 Breaking Barriers to Employment Initiative, was awarded in March by the Foundation for California Community Colleges on behalf of the California Workforce Development Board.

The grant will strengthen Canal Alliance’s partnership with the California Workforce Development Board and connect students to the services offered by the state’s workforce system.

Rich Diaz, the program mentor at Golden Gate Transit, said the bus operator apprenticeship is a 12-week program that includes a $1,000 stipend.

“Really, what we’re focusing on is reaching the priority population, and tapping into the local communities,” Diaz said. “The Canal is right in our backyard, and so we can pull from that community and say there is an opportunity for you here that comes with great benefits, competitive wages and flexibility.”

In addition to the transit operator program, Canal Alliance offers programs in construction and small business development.

The Marin Builders Association and the College of Marin partners with the nonprofit on its construction program.

“The wraparound services provided by the Canal Alliance team are an integral part of continuously improving lives in our local community beyond the training component,” said Rick Wells, chief operating officer of Marin Builders Association. “Partnerships like this, between education, industry and community are driving positive change here in Marin.”

A new certified-nursing-assistant curriculum in partnership with By the Bay Health and the College of Marin is launching this year. Plans are also in the works to expand into a new banking program, said Richard Martinez, vice president of programs at Canal Alliance. He said the nonprofit has “an obligation to the community” to do more.

“I think for all the good Canal Alliance is doing in the community, we’re only servicing but a fraction of the Latino immigrants,” Martinez said of the expansion effort. “We really owe it to them to increase the number of lives we could have an impact on, and seeking this funding and expanding our workforce is part of that goal.”

More information is at bit.ly/3ndDicu.

Read the article on the Marin IJ

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