Inside the spacious former auto body repair shop at 23rd Street and Barrett Avenue last Tuesday, forklifts and containers were pushed aside to make way for folding tables topped by resumes.
Just like that, the building serving as a training ground for local residents seeking careers in warehousing had become an employment factory.
Trainees who had taken part in a free 9-week course offered by Contra Costa College took turns walking up to tables. They were greeted by representatives from prominent local companies including Chevron Richmond, Kohana Coffee, Michael’s Transportation and Republic Services.
While some companies conducted mock interviews to help hone interview skills, others were hiring.
Of nine graduating classes over the last three years, up to 75-percent of the roughly 180 students who have participated in Contra Costa College’s intensive Forklift Logistics Operations & Warehouse Job Training program have found employment, said Pat Howard, professional development instructor.
Kohana Coffee has embraced the trainees so much that it primarily hires from the program.
“Republic Services currently has 27 openings,” she added excitedly.
The program has an impressive track record, particularly when considering trainees come with significant employment barriers, whether that be a lack of access to education or past convictions. The training is free, but the program is in the final year of a three-year, $15.5 million Department of Labor grant given to 11 schools for the purpose of providing technical training. Contra Costa College has leased the space at 23rd and Barrett from RichmondBUILD, the city of Richmond’s career training program. Soon, RichmondBUILD is moving out of the property, which will transition into a new auto body shop.
Program officials hope more funds can be raised now that the grant program has ended.
“It’s changing lives, and local companies really need these workers,” Howard said.
On Tuesday, trainees in dapper suits showed how the program will at least live on through its success stories. Employers didn’t have to walk very far across the warehouse to see how much trainees learned about warehousing in 9 weeks. The writing was literally on the wall: the trainees drew up designs of warehouse operations “from soup to nuts.” They know where everything is supposed to go and why.
And that’s had unexpected benefits. In the video below, Howard explained how one knowledgeable trainee scored a job while shopping at Cosco:
The training program has been working with multiple community partners to assist trainees, including SparkPoint center in Richmond, which helps low-income individuals achieve financial stability.
With that kind of professional help and guidance, trainees can better focus on the learning that happens weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., officials say
“They’re getting a chance to work productively, and live productively,” Howard said.