News & Updates

News & Updates

‘Clean Slate’ Offers Chance to Clear Up Past Issues

Some people must shake off the past before entering a MC3 Apprenticeship Readiness Program that is the first step toward a career in building and construction trades.

In Fresno County, one helping hand is the “Clean Slate” program funded by the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board. The program, operating through a contract with the Fresno County Public Defender’s office, is a tool for prospective students facing barriers such as non-violent criminal convictions, overdue child support payments and driver’s license suspensions.

Now, based on the success in Fresno, the program could soon expand throughout the 14-county ValleyBuild region with the help of a new, roughly $1.2 million High Roads Construction Careers grant.

“We know that these are the actual circumstances that our clients are facing,” said Blake Konczal, the board’s executive director, who also cited English and math difficulties as stumbling blocks for students.

“Making this type of resource available to people is crucially important to us,” he said. “We have a commitment to the state not only to find qualified people, not only to find people who become apprentices and become employed, but to really be committed to delivering a diverse training workforce.”

In Fresno County, the “Clean Slate” program began in the public defender’s office in 2017 as a way to remove barriers to healthcare, employment and housing for clients. Former Public Defender Elizabeth Diaz, who headed the office back then, said the grant-funded program was aimed at post-conviction relief for clients who successfully completed court-ordered terms and conditions.

“This is an opportunity to basically show to the court that you are now on a more positive path and your past should not determine your future,” she said. Both the community and the individual are rewarded when someone becomes a positive, tax-paying member of society.

The Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board began contracting with the office in 2018. The contract pays for an attorney’s time to assist workforce clients with the expungement of certain non-violent convictions, reinstatement of suspended driver’s licenses and agreements involving child support payments, Konczal said.

Those issues may not disqualify someone from enrolling in a pre-apprenticeship class, but they can make it difficult – or even impossible – to succeed.

For example, most unions want apprentices who can be sent to any job, and a felony conviction can be disqualifying in some cases. “Clean Slate” offers a chance to clear non-violent convictions such as certain drug offenses.

A suspended driver’s license can make it tough for someone to get to work or class. Often, Konczal said, licenses are suspended for unpaid parking tickets or moving violations. The program helps set up payment schedules so that the license can be conditionally released.

The help is similar for those with unpaid child support.

Konczal stressed that individuals must meet their financial obligations such as fines for parking tickets or overdue child support. “Clean Slate” helps create payment schedules over a reasonable time frame that the individual can afford.

The program has succeeded in solving problems for many pre-apprenticeship candidates. Those issues “stop a lot of young men (and women) who otherwise would qualify” for the training program, Konczal said.