At a recent mock job interview session at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, a middle-age San Pablo father said he’s been attending information technology classes when he’s not working full-time at a San Francisco parking garage, hoping a new career will bring more opportunities for his family.
In a separate interview, a Richmond man in his 20s said he was following in the footsteps of his dad, whose willingness to put in extra hours to attend IT courses has led to a lucrative career.
“Opportunity knocked and he answered,” he said.
The local men are students at the Stride Center, a unique and highly successful nonprofit that provides Bay Area men and women facing employment barriers a no-cost opportunity to train for jobs in the high-paying IT field. While the Stride Center’s programs are free for eligible local residents, they are not a handout, but rather a hand up, said Executive Director Barrie Hathaway.
“It’s about giving people who are willing to do the work the tools they need to make their lives better,” Hathaway said.
The Stride Center provides participants technical skills, technical certifications and job placement assistance, and graduates who put in the time and effort to earn degrees often enjoy starting salaries between $18 and $20 per hour.
For training, the program also offer much-needed work experience through the center’s computer repair and support shop, ReliaTech, which services businesses, nonprofits and individuals. Any profits made from ReliaTech are used to support the Stride Center’s programs.
The Stride Center also teams with local businesses to fuel its programs. Along with monetary donations, companies such as Chevron, Wells Fargo, Microsoft and Dreamworks provide computers that would otherwise be discarded for the center’s students and even look to hire graduates.
The Stride Center found its most involved partner in Chevron Richmond, a company known to steer donations toward programs aimed at getting community members career-ready, Hathaway said. Along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual monetary contributions, the company has donated more than 1,000 computers to the Stride Center in the last three years. Chevron has also held mock interviews for the Stride Center’s clients at the refinery and hired Stride Center’s tech-support graduates. It also promotes the organization at events.
“They recently donated to us a bunch of billboard and bus shelter posters to promote Stride Center programs,” Hathaway said.
Relationships between the Stride Center and the companies it works with are mutually beneficial, Hathaway said.
“Our pitch to companies is that through collaboration with the Stride Center, we can help you find good talent, give you a resource to move your electronics back in the community…you can do it with us, for free, and it has a mutual impact on bottom line,” Hathaway said.
Chevron Richmond officials agree their partnership is a win-win for the company and community. The contributions help build the refinery’s workforce of the future and, more importantly, the Center’s programs are having a real impact on people’s lives.
“We’re supporting the community that we live in,” said Mike Lubcyik, a Chevron Richmond employee and longtime Stride Center board member. “It’s the right business decision and the right thing to do.”