Apprenticeships Enable Upward Mobility, On-the-job Training

Jessica Rivera has been working in Human Resources for nine years.

She began at Firebaugh’s Red Rooster, a tomato packing, growing and shipping company, as an office assistant. Slowly, she worked her way up to Human Resources Assistant, handling payroll and other responsibilities. She achieved all of this without a formal Human Resources degree.

That’s where Westside Works stepped in.

Westside Works—an initiative of the West Hills Community College District— partners with local employers to develop registered apprenticeships and deliver a qualified, homegrown workforce to Westside Fresno and Kings County businesses and other organizations.
The program recently received state approval for three local employer-partners who can now employ and train apprentices to receive state-supported industry credentials, including Red Rooster. Jessica Rivera will be one of those apprentices.

“I was interested in getting involved because I don’t have much formal schooling on human resources and I want to learn more,” said Rivera. “This will help me understand employees better and the laws and it’ll also give me an actual certification.”
As part of the approved apprenticeship programs, students spend two to four years on the job and taking one to two classes per semester—free to apprentices—at any West Hills Community College District campus. At the end of the apprenticeship, they receive a valuable state certification, meaning that they are then considered a journeyperson in their occupation.

“For the employer, apprenticeships build up a pipeline and a homegrown workforce,” said Corinna Pereira, Director of Apprenticeship Programs. “Apprenticeship training can address important rural area labor market deficiencies. We’re grateful to our committed industry partners, who believe in this important initiative and are taking steps to ensure there are highly qualified professionals being trained to enter the workforce.”

For Randy Kee, Plant Manager at Red Rooster, the chance to be a part of the program is a crucial one when it comes to growing the company from within.

“I believe it offers an excellent opportunity for growing professionals to reinforce their marketability and skills,” he said. “Being that West Hills College offers local access to these classes, it makes it really accessible so that we can enhance our own future viability.”

Red Rooster is one of three companies that attained state approval for apprenticeships, with the help of West Hills College. The three approved apprenticeships will train workers in a variety of occupations including Human Resources Analysts for the City of Coalinga and Farm Equipment Mechanics for Fresno Equipment Company in Five Points. Red Rooster plans to offer apprenticeships in careers related to agriculture sales and marketing, food safety/science, plant maintenance, human resources and plant management.

Westside Works has also received $1 million total in grant funding through the California Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI). $500,000 was awarded for Agriculture and Industrial Science apprenticeships while $500,000 was awarded for Child Development Educator apprenticeships. 
Pereira said the funding will go toward facilitating the development of employer sponsored apprenticeships in these fields.

“WHCCD looks forward to serving constituents and stakeholders by delivering real workforce solutions,” said Pereira. “We want to make a difference in our local communities and the lives of our residents.”