Separately they are 16 unique personalities — one of whom was called “Forest Gump” for frequently being seen running to class — but together they are Cohort 31, a group of local residents who share a career path that has opened up a new world of opportunity.
The members of the 31st class of the award-winning RichmondBUILD career training program graduated Friday in a ceremony at the program’s academy at 360 S. 27th St.
RichmondBUILD is the City of Richmond’s award-winning program started in 2007 that provides free training for low-income Richmond and San Pablo residents in trades such as carpentry, hazardous waste removal, solar energy and energy efficiency.
The public-partnership receives sponsorship and support from a number of local companies and public agencies, including Chevron, Turner Group Construction and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The program places 80 percent of its graduates at an average starting wage of $18.33 an hour, according to the city. To date, the program has graduated more than 500 locals.
The number of certifications earned by graduates of the program “creates a lot of job opportunities,” program manager Fred Lucero said.
City Manager Bill Lindsay has called the program a success “year after year after year.”
For some graduates, the program offers a chance to overcome job barriers. More than 30-perecent of participants have a history with the criminal justice system.
Chevron Richmond officials congratulated Cohort 31, writing in a Facebook post they are “proud to support” efforts to “prepare Richmond residents with rewarding careers in the construction trades.”
David Gray, the chief of staff for Mayor Tom Butt, delivered an inspiring speech to the graduates.
“What happens next? Well, the sun’s going to set, tomorrow is going to be a new day. And you’re going to be faced with a challenge to either sit back…or to continue to make the right decisions to grow,” Gray said. “Your city, your mayor’s office stands behind you today, and we’ll stand behind you every step of the way, every time you wake up, every time you choose to grow.”
But what’s next for everyone else? Well, more free job training. The next RichmondBUILD classes start Jan. 9, with recruitment for the program beginning Nov. 14. See below for the flier with more information, along with additional pictures from today’s graduation.