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Centro Laboral de Graton and Santa Rosa Junior College

Defining the Problem that Brought the Team Together
Day laborers and domestic workers are extremely low income, immigrant workers, who seek work through day labor centers or on street corners. In Sonoma County, day laborers and domestic workers often work for individual homeowners in landscaping, general yard maintenance, digging, moving, housecleaning, and some heavy and skilled jobs. As a largely undocumented immigrant labor force, they lack access to a living wage, health care, education, and affordable housing. Because of poverty, lack of access to education, and language barriers, there are few meaningful points of entry into technical training and access to career pathways.

Description of the Partners
Centro Laboral de Graton (CLG) is a worker-led day labor center in Sonoma County, California, whose primary function is to address the workforce development needs of low wage, predominantly non-English speaking, and undocumented immigrant workers. These needs are addressed by providing training, employment, and civic engagement and advocacy opportunities to day laborers and domestic workers.

Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) is a public, two-year community college, accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (2015 WASC). The college has an annual student enrollment of 26,833 students, supported by 2,078 staff at two campuses, a 100+ acre campus in the heart of Santa Rosa, a 40-acre campus in Petaluma. SRJC offers a strong general education program that includes 240 general education courses and 90 majors for students planning to transfer to four-year colleges and universities as well as more than 113 career and technical certificate programs that prepare students for the workforce. SRJC awards both associate in arts (A.A.) and associate in science (A.S.) degrees and supports a robust basic skills program designed to prepare students for college-level courses. The college provides non-credit English as a Second Language (ESL) and operates a High School Equivalency Program (HEP), funded by the Office of Migrant Education to assist migrant and seasonal agricultural workers with obtaining a high school equivalency certificate and matriculate into college, vocational training or improved employment.

Original Work Plan
To respond to the needs of the community and the goals of the BCPIW initiative, the team agreed to develop and maintain a meaningful partnership to build bridges for day laborers and domestic workers so that they can access vocational training that allows them to obtain family wage jobs. The team identified four goals that they hoped to achieve as part of BPCIW.

  1. Complete a needs assessment to determine: a) the types of programs that the day laborers and domestic workers are interested in pursuing, b) the local labor market, and c) the programs offered by the college and new programs that need to be developed.

  2. Analyze potential funding for curriculum development and a career navigator position.

  3. Based on the needs assessment, develop new curriculum or revise curriculum that integrates basic skills and English language learning with technical skill development.

  4. Create agreements for the partnership that will sustain the relationship beyond the length of the grant.

Progress -to-Date
Based on the needs assessment, the team determined that an area of interest to their day laborer population was Green Landscaping, also called Xeriscaping. Recognizing the success achieved in the state of Washington with their IBEST program, the college adapted a Xeriscape curriculum created by Santa Barbara City College to integrate English language skill development with the technical skill curricula. The program is designed such that the introductory course includes bilingual instruction for OSHA 10 certification, job communication skills, basic mathematics, and basic xeriscape plant identification and installation techniques. Scheduled to launch in March of 2016, the program will be between 40 and 50 hours, delivered in an accelerated format (8 hours/week for 5 or 6 weeks), and offered during times requested by the potential participants (Friday night and Saturday morning). Phase two of this collaboration will be the development of an advanced course that will prepare students for low-flow irrigation installation certification.

As with any low-skilled population and adult learners, day laborers encounter many barriers and challenges that can impede success. As such, one of the challenges remaining for the team is determining how to address such barriers and provide the comprehensive supports necessary. Thus, prior to launching the training, the team knows that they need to identify barriers to student persistence and completion and then determine the appropriate student supports. Another challenge is determining the roles for each of the partners in addressing student barriers and challenges. The college has received Adult Education Block Grant Funding (AB104) and can utilize these funds to hire a navigator, however, CLG has the knowledge and expertise for working with immigrant workers and understanding their barriers and challenges. Thus, the work of the team in January-March 2016 will be in determining their roles and ensuring that they are capitalizing on the strength of each organization.

Impact of the Initiative and Lessons Learned
As a community-based organization devoted to serving the immigrant day laborer community, CLG has been committed to providing greater employment opportunities for day laborers and domestic workers through workforce development programming and services. However, a regular challenge for CLG has been in developing job skills training opportunities that lead to more steady employment with a living wage. This new partnership with SRJC has led to the development of vocational career pathways that were built from an evidence-based model accounting for the numerous challenges day laborers and domestic workers frequently face.

Additionally, CLG has been engaged in an organizational development phase to improve program evaluation and impact measurement determination. Working in partnership with SRJC has complimented CLG’s growth by learning how larger institutions such as community colleges measure impact and outcomes. In assessing impact, CLG has initiated a dialogue on how best to determine successful outcomes for different demographical categories of day laborers and domestic workers, and matching those outcomes to the appropriate programming, such as the vocational certificate program.

Historically, SRJC has been at the forefront in providing high quality education to its community, including English language learners. Even though this is well interpreted by the college, the thought of serving its increasingly diverse student body and community was not fully understood. The initiative to build community partnerships to serve immigrant workers brought to the college a new perception of how to better serve its large noncredit student population, mostly made up of migrant students. The college now recognizes and embraces their role in developing noncredit vocational certificates to provide different career pathways to immigrant workers.

Additionally, through the technical assistance provided and the opportunity to meet with peers and attend the NCWE conference, college staff have become more aware of new and innovative models that are utilized at other colleges. SRJC is committed to adopting some of these new ideas and innovations to better serve their immigrant student population.

Future Plans and Sustainability of the Partnership
As with any nascent relationship, the team has encountered challenges along the way. Staffing changes have led to confusion as to the roles of each of the partners. CLG is struggling to determine what role the organization and its staff will play in the implementation of the training programs aside from recruiting and assuring attendance of workers at trainings. Funding and future funding is always an issue, particularly for CLG as a nonprofit organization. SRJC has confronted resistance by some faculty and administrators regarding a comprehensive understanding of the benefits of developing noncredit short-term vocational certificates. And because both partners want to ensure that learners achieve family-wage jobs upon completion of the training, the team is still working to identify employer partners. Even though they have developed a number of new employer partners, many more relationships need to be built to have a successful, creditable and robust program.

Nonetheless, the team is confident that this is a long-term relationship and have begun discussions on new programs in personal home care assistance, day care provider, and exploring opportunities in the hospitality industry. They are fully committed to the next phase of the initiative and fostering and growing their new partnership to its fullest.

Christy Lubin, Director, Centro Laboral de Graton
Jesús Guzmán, Program Director, Centro Laboral de Graton
Nancy Miller, Dean of Instruction and Strategic Program Development, Santa Rosa Junior College
Héctor V. Delgado, Manager, Southwest Santa Rosa Center, Santa Rosa Junior College

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