News & Updates

News & Updates

Second All-Female Class Graduates from ValleyBuild NOW Program

Members of the second ValleyBuild NOW graduating class are ready for new careers.

Fifteen students have been honored as the second graduating class in the Fresno-based ValleyBuild NOW training program that prepares women for good-paying careers in the building and construction trades.

Graduates of ValleyBuild NOW (Non-traditional Occupations for Women) were celebrated at June 30 ceremonies in Clovis. Family members, local and state officials and other dignitaries honored the women and their successful completion of MC3 (Multi-Craft Core Curriculum) Apprenticeship Readiness training.       

Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, a member of the Fresno Unified School District Board of Education, told the graduates in her speech that they were “changing gender dynamics in the construction industry … You are historic and you are changing the path for women that come after you.”

“With every foundation you lay, you are constructing a world that recognizes the value of each individual irrespective of their gender or background,” added Eric Rood, chief for the Division of Apprenticeship Standards at the California Department of Industrial Relations.

Two graduates spoke about their individual paths to the program. Crystal Rodriguez talked about the adversities and missed opportunities of her childhood and her limited job prospects as an adult.

But, determined to change her life, Rodriguez decided to pursue her dream of a career in construction and signed up for the ValleyBuild NOW program. She spoke about the camaraderie in the class and how the training built their confidence.

“Let us inspire others to purse their dreams, knowing that they too can achieve greatness,” she said.

Marianni Reyes-Rojas, born in Venezuela, talked about how the economic upheaval there prompted her to leave home in search of ways to better support her family. Ultimately, she came to the United States, where she rode a bicycle to her job as a cook in the mornings and a dishwasher at night.

In search of a career, she turned to the ValleyBuild NOW program. She is now an apprentice with the bricklayers.

“There is no need to be afraid of starting over or questioning yourself about the time you have wasted in the past,” Reyes-Rojas said. “Opportunities will always be around you. You just have to be willing to take them.”

Operating in a 14-county region of the Central Valley, ValleyBuild unites workforce development boards, building trades councils and other partners to train men and women for construction-related jobs. ValleyBuild NOW focuses specifically on improving the percentage of women in the industry, now estimated at less than 10% in California.

The second all-female cohort was the 38th ValleyBuild training class since 2013 and the 55th within the Central Valley. Funded mainly by state grants, the overall ValleyBuild program boasts a 97% graduation rate.

“This is a model that works,” said Blake Konczal, executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board, a key partner and fiscal agent for the ValleyBuild program. “People are being trained, people are being employed.”

Chuck Riojas, financial secretary/treasurer of the Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, pointed to the billions of dollars in public infrastructure projects expected to flow into the region over the next decade.

“The opportunities are tremendous right now for apprenticeship,” he said in an interview.

Hands-on learning is an important part of apprenticeship readiness training.
Students in the second ValleyBuild
NOW cohort learned from 12 different
trades during the class.Caption