Huge boost for Stockton economy, opportunity for apprentices
Pile Drivers Local 34 field representatives Martin Espinoza and Bill Burton get ready to meet apprenticeship candidates at January 16 construction industry job fair in Stockton.
Everyone's got a story.
Jorge Palacios was driving through Stockton one day in January when he saw a long line wrapped around the civic center building. "I just needed to see what was happening," he said, "and it opened up a whole new life for me."
Mike Navarette was stressed out after being laid off from a good job at Sutter Health. "I had looked everywhere," he said, "and I had just about given up when I heard about it."
And on Thursday, April 6—after graduating from a nine-week, pre-apprenticeship "boot camp" at the Carpenters Training and Apprenticeship Center in Fairfield—Palacios, Navarette and 16 others will be indentured into the apprenticeship program, opening the door to a lifetime career with good jobs in the building trades. Plus, they'll have a good shot at working at one of the biggest projects in Northern California to come along in years.
"It's a whole new life for me," said soon-to-be-apprentice Charlie Yuon.
At the Stockton Job Fair, Raul Poblete, Apprenticeship Coordinator for Millwrights and Pile Drivers at the Pleasanton Training Facility, and Hector Lopez, Carpenter Coordinator at the Fairfield Training Facility.
Boot-campers Charlie Yuon and Justin Leos at the Fairfield Apprenticeship Center.
Six of the new apprentices are beneficiaries of a local hire program, produced by a unique collaboration of Stockton area government, business and labor seeking to assure that the benefits of a $650 million prison construction project flow into this deeply depressed Central Valley community, with its 15.5 percent unemployment rate.
"I hope to see some of you out here," Clark/McCarthy general superintendent Mike Tovaraz told the group as they concluded an intense, four-hour tour of the 144-acre site on East Arch Road where the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is building a 1720-bed California Health Care Facility that will house inmates with severe and chronic physical and mental health issues.
"It was awesome to see the size of this project, and how complex it is," said boot camper Justin Leos. "It made everything we're doing in class come alive."
The boot-camp tour of the California Medical Facility project began with a serious-as-a-heart-attack safety meeting. "My most important job is to make sure you go home to your family in one piece at the end of the day," said Clark/McCarthy superintendent Mike Tovaraz. "No job is so important that it's worth getting hurt on.
J.D. Hiltachk, Local 405, takes a break from installing drywall at San Joaquin Delta College
to visit with boot-campers.
The boot-camp tour—which also featured visits to projects in the area, including at a local community college—was the culmination of the pre-apprenticeship program, which is now the most frequent way for new hires to enter the industry. As this issue goes to press, the graduates are getting ready to indenture and start looking for their first jobs as members of Local 152E.
It's also the culmination of a process that began last year when the Stockton City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the two major contractors on the prison hospital job—Clark/McCarthy and Granite Hensel-Phelps—and building trades unions got together to see if they couldn't use the prison project to boost the Stockton economy. The economic impact from construction alone is expected to be $1 billion, with as many as 1,700 construction workers per day on site.
Stockton has a local hire ordinance, but it doesn't apply to state jobs. It took the threat of a lawsuit to bring CDCR to the table, but a final win-win settlement agreement produced an outreach program involving the city, county and state, business, and labor, community groups and local contractors.
"The cooperation of the Carpenters was absolutely essential," says Diana Proctor, who is managing the outreach effort for Granite Hensel-Phelps. "These are prevailing wage jobs. You have the good apprenticeship programs. They are the doorway to these jobs."
A Construction Industry Jobs Information Fair sponsored by the coalition on January 6 was a roaring success. More than 1500 area residents showed up to talk with major national contractors, as well as local employers and construction unions. Six hundred filled out application forms.
Boot-campers learn about construction of elevator shafts, and the difficult issues posed by the state's Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program. "You've got to be thinking big picture," says Kent Bartelt, Otto Construction superintendent at the Consumnes River College parking garage.
Otto Construction superintendent Kent Bartelt explains the installation of embedded studs to the boot-camp group.
Those who passed the drug test to qualify for the Carpenters boot camp were committed to a demanding nine-week program. On the one hand, there's no charge. On the other hand, participants needed to show up four mornings a week in Fairfield at 7:00 a.m., to learn safety, math, first aid, work habits and basic carpentry skills with only a small stipend for gas.
It works. Since mandatory pre-apprenticeship programs were put in place three years ago, retention rates have greatly improved.
Clark/McCarthy superintendent Mike Tovaraz explains the operation of the pre-cast yard for tilt-up panels. "We do 75 panels every five days," he says.
The March 29 tour began with a 7:00 a.m. safety meeting at the prison project and concluded with a long tour through a parking structure at Consumnes River College in Sacramento. Along the way, the group watched the construction of one of 31 football field-sized prison buildings—from an innovative pre-casting process to tilt-up; drywall-lathing, acoustical and concrete work at San Joaquin Delta College; and learned about managing a massive concrete pour at a parking structure at Consumnes River College with trucks arriving every eight minutes.
Along the way they got a few gems from their tour guides, veteran carpenters and managers with years of experience.
"Work safe," emphasized Clark/McCarthy's Tovaraz. "No job is so important that it's worth getting hurt on. Support your brothers on the job. Go to every union meeting. And get the training on every part of our job, from pouring concrete to finish work. Don't get pigeon-holed."
Graduates and staff of the recent Fairfield Training Center boot camp include from left (back row): Thomas Stone, David Vaca, Eric Alley, Jose Casem, Northon Kemp, Justin Leos, Maxwell Barbosa, George Palacios, Michael Navarette, Christopher Jester, Instructor Patricio E. Cubas, Dylan Jones, Julian Oelhafen, and Training Center Coordinator Hector Lopez; (middle row) NCCRC Marketing Rep Lisa Vigil, Erik Cox, Charlie Yuon; (front row) Ivan Bublik, Jorge Vazquez Galvan, Nahum Mondragon. Not shown, Igor Chernyetsky.
Kent Bartelt, the Otto Construction superintendent on the Consumnes River College project said, "If you want a job here, show up at 6 a.m. when I get here. And then you want to be the hustlingest guy on the project. And most important, ask all the questions."