It was standing room only in the Alex L. Pitcher, Jr. Community Room last Wednesday.
About 200 residents from the Bayview-Hunters Point community came out to the Southeast Community Facility (SECF) for a Community Workforce Orientation aimed at breaking down the barriers keeping them from employment in the trade industry.
With several major construction projects both already and soon to be underway in Southeast San Francisco, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), along with several contractors and community organizations, pulled together a number of resources, support tools, and trade information for the first-ever event.
“This is the appetizer, if you will,” said Dwayne Jones, president of RDJ Enterprises. “This is us making certain that folks are aligned with trades that align with their skill sets. There’s a lot of folks here today that are interested in trades but may find out, after receiving more information, that that’s not the trade for them and they want to do something different.”
Dwayne Jones is one of several of the event’s organizers that also includes James A. Bryant, CEO of JBR Partners, Inc. and Yolanda Jones, owner of Yolanda Jones Construction Administration & Traffic Control (YCAT).
“I grew up here and this is the first time I felt supported around my barriers to employment,” said Maurice Allen, a Bayview-Hunters Point native who credited Aboriginal Blackmen United (ABU) for telling him about the event. “It’s stressful when you try to turn your life around and you can’t afford to pay tickets in order to start a career in the construction industry.”
The event started off with a brief introduction about the major Sewer System Improvement Program construction projects that will be taking place in Bayview-Hunters Point that include the Biosolids Digester Facilities Project, the Headworks demolition project, and construction of the new Southeast Community Facility (SECF) at 1550 Evans Avenue.
After the introduction, attendees broke out into different areas of the room that were marked “CityBuild,” “DMV,” “Child Support,” “GED/HS Diploma,” and “Child Care.” The area that had the longest line and most visitors was the DMV.
“I stopped by the DMV table first and spoke to Mr. Walters from YCD [Young Community Developers] and he gave me a list of things to do to get my tickets paid,” said Allen. “I walked away feeling more confident about my future and providing for my family.”
Attendees also filled out cards that asked them to identify what trade they were interested in along with any barriers they may be facing when seeking employment. From there, organizers will use that information for their database and follow up with the attendees to connect them to the right resources.
“This is a new concept,” said Bryant. “Our folks in this neighborhood disproportionately have DMV concerns, child support concerns, and have difficulty getting into apprenticeship programs because of the requirements to get into those programs. And so, this is our first step in creating a pipeline of residents who all meet and exceed the standards to get into both training and the apprenticeship programs.”
Bryant said that the CityBuild booth was there to connect attendees with important training opportunities. Representatives from the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Child Support Services were also present to help residents work out any issues with obtaining their driver’s license, one of the many barriers that job seekers often face.
“The final row is ‘Do you have a GED or do you have a diploma, and how do we get you to get that?’” said Bryant.
Although the atmosphere was business-oriented, it felt like a huge family reunion for the organizers who shared hugs and handshakes, as well as flyers, with old friends and relatives from the community.
Yolanda Jones, who has roots in Bayview-Hunters Point, embraced old friends with hugs often breaking from her official capacity to catch up with them about their children and grandchildren.
“These people are my people so it’s all positive,” said Yolanda Jones. “It’s inspiring because they really turned out for the work and they want to work in their community, and I’m here to make sure they work in the community. And I’m glad that Harlan Kelly supports the community working.”
Several residents approached Yolanda Jones and Bryant between handshakes expressing their interest in careers as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, Laborers, flaggers, operators, Class B drivers, and much more.
Bayview-Hunters Point native Erica Edwards, who is also a mother, said that she is interested in becoming a Class B driver, but she often runs into obstacles regarding childcare for her daughter.
“I can now focus on my career,” said Edwards. “The orientation felt like a real outreach to the community.”
Dwayne Jones said that the organizers plan on hosting an event like this every quarter so that they can make certain they’ve not missed anyone in the neighborhood who is sincerely interested in working.
“The line is only going to get longer so the sooner folks can gauge what their interests are in the trades, the quicker we’re going to be able to ensure they can get an opportunity on these upcoming construction projects,” said Dwayne Jones.
For more information about the SFPUC’s workforce development program, visit www.sfwater.org/workforce.
For more information about the Sewer System Improvement Program’s upcoming construction projects, visit https://sfwater.org/ssip.