Earn and Learn Fremont (ELF) Pilot Program Helps Displaced Workers Make the Switch to Advanced Manufacturing
The last year has been difficult for the entire world. Many lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, many local advanced manufacturing companies continue to grow and seek local, skilled talent to help produce a variety of products, including helping to fill an increased demand for medical equipment.
The Fremont Economic Development team knew that there was an opportunity to connect those who have been stuck in low-wage, high-turnover jobs with the robust employer base and promising career pathways that exists in Fremont.
For example, Evolve Manufacturing Technologies, Inc. began producing rapid COVID-19 test kits, ventilators, and COVID-19 treatment equipment when the United States’ coronavirus outbreak began last spring. Over the past year, Evolve has already hired 100 employees, and it’s in need of more.
That’s where the City of Fremont’s newly launched Earn and Learn Fremont (ELF) Pilot Program comes into play. A first-ever partnership between industry, academia, workforce boards, and City departments, ELF had two goals: help local employer find talent and help job seekers affected by COVID-19 layoffs jumpstart a new career in advanced manufacturing.
The 8-week ELF Pilot Program provided Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)-eligible participants with paid work experience at Evolve Manufacturing Technologies and an industry-recognized Certificate of Competency after completion of a short-term, customized virtual manufacturing skills development training developed by local Ohlone College.
Upon successful completion of the program, the inaugural participants (among them women of color, a veteran, and an unhoused individual) had the opportunity to continue employment at Evolve Manufacturing, choose to join another manufacturing company, or further their education at Ohlone College.
Here’s what some of the program participants had to say:
“I joined the program to become a better employee with a larger knowledge pool and to expand on my practical knowledge in manufacturing technology. I am looking forward to being able to learn and provide for my family at the same time,” said Marta Kolar.
“I’ve been struggling, but now that I’ve got this job it’s made things a lot easier,” Reginald Battle said. “I’m grateful for this program for giving me an opportunity to better myself and to be a part of something.”
This month, 17 pilot program participants graduated, excited about the possibilities that the program has afforded them. But perhaps even more exciting than the participants’ experience with the pilot, is the outcome of this unique partnership—the stellar placement rate. All graduating participants have been offered longer-term employment at Evolve Manufacturing or another manufacturing company in Fremont, proving that the ELF pilot is a successful model to help more displaced workers pivot to careers that lead to economic self-sufficiency.
As the advanced manufacturing hub in Silicon Valley, Fremont looks forward to expanding the ELF Pilot Program to build a much-needed skilled and diverse talent pipeline for local manufacturers.
The program has already received local and national media coverage in publications such as Industry Today, IndustryWeek, KRON-4, Tri-City Voice, and TechTarget.
Expansion of the ELF Pilot Program is even more plausible with President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan that calls for making investments in research and development, manufacturing and regional economic development, and workforce development.
In particular, the plan calls for an investment of $48 billion in American workforce development infrastructure just like the ELF Pilot Program that will strengthen the pipeline for more women and people of color to access opportunities and support community college partnerships that build capacity to deliver job training programs based on in-demand skills. TechTarget’s article calls out the ELF Pilot Program as a “strong model” and “what’s needed and been sorely missing for decades.”
If you are interested in participating in a future cohort of the Earn and Learn Fremont Program, please add your name to the interest form at https://tinyurl.com/Earn-Learn1. Interested employers can email the City of Fremont Economic Development Department at firstname.lastname@example.org For details about the Smart Manufacturing Technology Program at Ohlone College, email Dr. Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua at email@example.com.