Rudy Campos will never forget the day his printer broke down nearly two decades ago.
It was a great moment in his life.
At the time, the Richmond resident faced career dejection. After 18 years parking cars for a living, Campos joined an aircraft technician program at City College of San Francisco and landed a lucrative job with United Airlines. Then Sept. 11 happened. Airplanes used by terrorists as weapons struck the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., ending 2,996 lives.
The attacks led to significant layoffs in the airline industry. Campos needed a new career path. And then his printer broke down.
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He brought the printer to the ReliaTech, a low-cost technology consulting and services company operated by a nonprofit called The Stride Center. While there, he saw a sign, “Want to be an IT technician?” That would change his career path indefinitely.
This past Wednesday at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, Campos, now in his 11th year working for the Refinery’s IT team, reflected upon that fateful day. He recounted the story before joining a half-dozen other Chevron employees in a training session with a dozen Stride Center students. Armed with resumes, the students were practicing their job interview skills.
Like these students, Campos also completed Stride Center rigorous training programs. The program aims to leverage technology in a way that empowers low-income Bay Area residents with economic mobility, says Karen Lincoln, director of partnerships for The Stride Center.
Every year, about 300 students at three Bay Area locations – about 150 per semester – participate in intensive 22-week training programs that prepare them for certifications needed for an IT career. Operating from locations in San Pablo, Oakland and San Jose, the Stride Center is prideful about its high rate of students that achieve certification. While the industry average for passing the A-plus certification is about 35 percent, the Stride Center achieves 65-70 percent certification.
“We feed them with a firehose,” said Lincoln, who said the training includes one month of prep leading up to testing for certification.
Chevron has been a big supporter of the Stride Center’s mission. That has a lot to do with Russell Rosete, Chevron Richmond’s IT guru known for having donated more than 2,000 computers to community organizations since 2004, the majority going to the Stride Center.
In fact, it was Rosete who hired Campos to work at the Refinery. After Campos completed three certifications, including A-plus and Network-plus, Rosete came to the Stride Center seeking to hire students for a project at the Refinery lasting two months. Campos came on board.
“Russell told me, ‘If I like what you do, I’ll give you more work,” Campos said. “He’s continued to give me work at the Refinery for the last 11 years.”
When it came to success, Campos had reached for the skies in the airline industry. But as fate would have it, his success story is happening just 20 minutes from his Richmond home at the Chevron Refinery.
“It feels really good,” Campos said. “I’m dedicated, they like what I do. And that’s what you need to succeed in this business.”