Tulare County wins a ‘Good Job Challenge’

The United States Economic Development Administration awarded the South Valley with $23 million dollars in the Good Job Challenge grant funding aimed at boosting much needed jobs through improved training programs

TULARE COUNTY – A partnership between Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare County is one of 509 applicants in the nation to receive millions in grant funding aimed at helping boost the local economy through workforce training programs.

Tulare, Fresno, Madera and Kings counties joined in collaboration to create an industry-led workforce training program to apply for the highly competitive Good Job Challenge grant from the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA). The grant is to be used to incentivise communities to invest in innovative approaches to workforce development. The goal is to help secure job opportunities for more Americans across the nation. Of the 509 applicants, only 32 partnerships in the nation were awarded funding. 

“What’s exciting [about this grant] is that it’s an ability to throw resources at a new approach to collaborating with the private sector on job training, and getting to solutions that are going to lead to more of those good jobs in the community,” Devin Jones, economic development manager for the city of Visalia said. 

According to the EDA, this funding will allow for personalized design, development, implementation and expansion of programs tailored specifically to each community. Each applicant joined forces with labor unions, community colleges, industry and other stakeholders in order to create a project that will solve the need for local talent and increase the supply of trained workers. The goal is to secure jobs in key industries that are essential to U.S supply chains, global competitiveness and regional development.  

By gathering together with community partners, each city was able to see where the need is the heaviest. From there, Tulare worked with Madera, Fresno and Kings counties to see where their needs overlapped and found consistencies on where they could make changes. Adam Peck, Visalia Workforce Investment Board executive director, said locally, Visalia’s focus is the industrial area as Industrial Park continues to grow. They are looking at furthering jobs in areas like manufacturing or warehousing logistics.

“We really are using this [funding] to further be able to make investments in expanding or developing new trainings, by getting feedback from businesses on what they need, especially in industrial areas,” Peck said. 

The Tulare County partnership investigated already existing training programs to find areas that need improvement. They looked to see which business areas require specific skills that an individual can not learn from a simple training program. They also looked to see which businesses need additional training programs and how some programs already in place could be adjusted. From that research, they were able to identify some training programs that were missing altogether. Something the county determined to be important are the more technical training programs specific to a certain area. Nothing is set in stone as far as where the funding will go. 

“Industrial technology, industrial maintenance, like maintenance mechanics types, there’s always stuff around logistics training,” Peck said. “You have these big warehouses that have a lot of high technology components and how to make sure workers have the skills they need, so that those can run effectively.”

In order to accurately see which industry was hurting and in need of the most help, Peck said they worked with the South Valley Industrial Collaborative (SVIC). This collaborative is a group of businesses who join together to talk about what their needs are, workforce and otherwise. Peck said the combination of working with SVIC as well as College of the Sequoias and adult education programs was helpful in learning about the needs of the community. 

“We have great partnerships in Tulare County between city economic development, workforce development, schools, industry and so we’re really trying to get some funding and make sure that those partnerships can turn into some real projects that give people some good opportunities,” Peck said. 

Now that the Valley has been awarded this grant funding, there has not been a specific allocation as to how much each of the four counties will receive. Of the four, Fresno is the largest county followed by Tulare. The EDA will determine how the funding is allocated after they sit down and really look into their findings. They will then determine where funding will be spent over the next three years. Because of the type of work they do, SVIC will receive a portion of this funding according to Jones.

“We will collectively kind of work across the whole four county region and will collectively sit down and look at what we’ve planned, what the EDA rules are and then how to best kind of have that money hit the ground,” Peck said. 

Tulare County plans to work hard to get a large portion of the money to be allocated and thus spent here. There is a lot of excitement around this particular grant funding because it is different from most grants that come from the EDA according to Peck. 

This funding is unique because it focuses on training individuals to get them involved in a more stable and hopefully higher paying wage. 

“[The WIB] should be able to identify where there are needs for skilled workers that would pay a family sustaining wage, we need to make sure that we as a community come together and make sure that the people in our community have a chance to be that skilled worker,” Peck said. “That’s what this is further investment in.”

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