I.E. Black Worker Center Call for Apps
By Dianne Anderson
Two job openings and a plethora of choices for all unemployed Americans sound like great odds for everyone, except for the historically last hired and first fired.
The latest data still needs to be disaggregated, but as far as Dr. Nosakhere Thomas can see, his center’s pre-apprentices were dealing with greater challenges in getting interviews about this time last year.
“I talked to others who have similarly said they were getting no return phone calls. Now, they’re getting interviews, but they are not always getting the jobs,” said Dr. Thomas, Ph.D., MBA, associate director of the Inland Empire Black Worker Center.
The numbers seem to be picking up, and Black workers are starting to get interviews, but many are still working in warehouses or lower-tiered kinds of jobs. In some cases, jobs may be available, but he looks to see whether Black workers are landing the jobs that they are interviewing for.
“That’s still an open question, they would prefer hiring white, Latinx, API, or anything before us. While there are more jobs available, we’re still at the bottom rung in terms of the pecking order,” he said.
Last year, the Black Worker Center, in cooperation with UCLA Center for Advance of Racial Equity at Work, looked at 1,000 Black workers from San Bernardino, San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside Counties, on how workers have fared since COVID-19.
“They said they were first fired, and 70% of those interviewed were still not working again two years into COVID at that time. Now we are approaching the end of the third year and we haven’t seen the needle move here a lot,” he said.
The Center held its first 12-week cohort with 15 participants that graduated in June. Of those, five landed full-time employment, six are in internships with the water industry, and four are still interviewing.
It’s not bad, but he hoped that everyone would be full-time or in internships.
“We are still advocating, lobbying, working with them. Now that we know what’s going on, we continue to push for better outcomes in terms of job offerings and internships,” he said.
Many jobs are available across sectors and in water careers, which is a strong sector. His goal with the center is for family-sustaining jobs, for union-backed high-road jobs. Women are encouraged to apply.
“We’re doing pretty good, we’ve got 23% [women] in our last cohort. We’re coming in strong in what we have for this cohort,” he said.
For their next project, he’s pushing more work within school districts. When COVID hit, principals were doing janitorial work for a lack of workers. The district has many vacant positions that support school systems, and he seeks more headway in 2023.
“Just like we collaborated with the water agency, we’d like to collaborate with school districts so we can identify and prepare good candidates for entry-level union jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree,” he said.
The next cohort starts December 1, but they will accept applications depending on capacity. For those that miss this cohort, rotating classes will open again in the next round. The program is located at 468 W. 5th Street in San Bernardino.
To qualify, men and women must be 18 years and older, have a high school diploma or GED, and preferably be enrolled in San Bernardino Valley College. Men must also be registered with Selective Service. Those impacted by the justice system are welcome, as are veterans.
After they finish the pre-apprenticeship program, one disqualifier is that if they fail to pass the drug test on the interview for a job or internship, they may not be offered a job. The Black Worker Center doesn’t disqualify the applicant, but rather the person or the company that is offering the job.
Marijuana is legal for recreational use in California, but a test can be required. He feels it is fair because some machinery can be dangerous.
“The tricky part about Marijuana is that it stays in your system longer than any other drug. They could have had it on the weekend, which is not illegal, but federally, it’s still a class one narcotic,” he said.
The center engages around 2,000 a year in the community, and it has created job pathways, but he said it is not a job service center. It is a center for advocacy, organizing, policy and workforce development.
Recently, they met with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su regarding Executive Order 11246, to talk about community program and project labor agreements to address equitable access.
“And for Black folks being able to access these government contracts, and aggregate data to see if there are any bad actors. [It’s] to make sure the process transparent, [leveling] the ground,” he said.
Another irony is the mantra across industries is that they can’t seem to find Black workers, even as so many equity dollars came down in the past two years to support Black equity.
He feels the Inland Empire Black Worker Center wouldn’t be standing today if not for the dollars that came down on the heels of George Floyd.
IEBWC is one of 16 nonprofit groups funded in the first round of $740,000 in grants awarded earlier this year through a partnership of the IE Black Equity Fund, IE Funders Alliance and Inland Empire Community Foundation.
“I was hired in 2020 and we officially opened in January [this year]. If it weren’t for George Floyd, I don’t think this would have happened,” he said.
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