News & Updates

News & Updates

ValleyBuild Program Grows with $3 Million Investment

Roughly $3 million set aside in the California budget will help expand the successful ValleyBuild program that prepares men and women for steady careers in construction trades.

“We want to make sure that our local residents get
access to the jobs that are being created in our geography.”
– Blake Konczal, executive director, Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board. 

The Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board – the fiscal agent for ValleyBuild –has been awarded new funding to build on the MC3 Apprenticeship Readiness Program operating across a 14-county region. One key target for support is the ValleyBuild NOW (Non-Traditional Occupations for Women) training effort, which recently completed its first all-female pre-apprenticeship class in Fresno with a 100% graduation rate.

In part, the new state funding will help support a second all-female ValleyBuild NOW cohort in 2023. 

The money follows in the footsteps of federal and state grants and funding that have supported the pioneering training program since it began in Fresno more than a decade ago. ValleyBuild is rooted in a training model created through a partnership between the Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings Building and Construction Trades Council, the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board and The Rios Company. A series of grants allowed for the development of strategies that provide the foundation for ValleyBuild.

“We’re thankful for the opportunities that our funding sources at the state workforce board and Gov. Newsom have made possible,” said Blake Konczal, executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board. “We want to make sure that our local residents get access to the jobs that are being created in our geography.

“Massive public infrastructure projects are going through some of the poorest counties in California and we have to be sure that our local residents are prepared to successfully compete for those jobs. If we don’t, people from outside of our area will come and take those jobs and that would really be a shame.”

ValleyBuild training programs help prepare the future workforce by teaching skills of the trades along with construction math and forklift driving, for example. Students also explore a variety of building trades ranging from plumbing to sheet metal to electrical.

Since the program began, more than 600 job-seekers have completed training across more than 50 cohorts or classes. Nearly 80% have found jobs, and roughly two-thirds of those employed are women, African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian or members of other minority and vulnerable populations historically under-represented in the construction industry.

In traditional training classes, women represent only 10% to 20% of the students. Notably, after completing the pre-apprenticeship training, women have fared as well as men in terms of construction industry job placement and earnings.

Training officials now are working to improve the percentage of women in classes – and the building trades – through the ValleyBuild NOW program. The new funding will help support a second all-female class and address barriers to employment and/or participation in the training program.

That includes a countywide effort to encourage local hire provisions for government-funded construction projects, needs-based stipends for some students, paid work experience in construction-related positions prior to apprenticeship and increased mentorships for female apprentices from journeywomen in the trades.

Partners in ValleyBuild include the Building Trades Councils in the 14-county area; Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees throughout the region; Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) providers; eight workforce development boards in the region; The Rios Company; and community-based organizations.