Kurt Madden, Ashley Swearengin, Marisa Moore and Mark Riley present the grant to further Career Nexus’ efforts to connect people with high-paying jobs in the Central Valley. Photo contributed

published on July 20, 2021 - 4:05 PM
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Central Valley young adults will have a shot at higher paying jobs through paid training after Bank of America invested $300,000 into Career Nexus and the Fresno DRIVE Initiative. 

Bank of America has had the desire to connect people to jobs to help improve economic development. The effort to obtain the grant was spearheaded by Mark Riley, market president of Bank of America in the Central Valley. 

“We feel that we have a responsibility to address pressing societal issues, including advancing racial equality and economic opportunity in a community where we all live, serve and visit,” said Riley. 

The timing of connecting people with jobs is even more important as the public emerges from the pandemic, he said. 

The $300,000 grant will go toward the upskill and job placement program, which will in turn go toward providing paid internships. The grant will support a regional collaborative effort on behalf of the DRIVE Initiative and Career Nexus. It is the largest grant that Bank of America has made in the Fresno-Visalia area, said Ashley Swearengin, CEO of Central Valley Community Foundation.

“Work-based learning is all about getting people access to the training they need and pay them in the process,” she said. 

Obtaining the grant, Swearengin said, only happened because Bank of America’s Central Valley leadership “pounded the pavement and lobbied their superiors at corporate headquarters to spend more money and invest more money in this local market.”

There are thousands of adults trapped in a cycle of low paying jobs, said Kurt Madden, CEO of Career Nexus. Career Nexus’ goal is to provide a way out by building a bridge to jobs that have a true ladder to rise and be promoted. 

“If we’re successful, the inclusive economic impact on our community will be significant, and it will be measured by the amount of young adults who are able to break out of that cycle,” said Madden. 

The investment will help young adults learn about job opportunities and engage in work experience to access promising careers. 

Swearengin represented the Fresno DRIVE Initiative, which stands for Developing the Region’s Inclusive and Vibrant Economy. It’s a 10-year community investment plan to foster the economy in the Greater Fresno area. It launched in 2019 with a goal to benefit underserved communities.

Its goal is to invest an estimated $4 billion in economic development, neighborhood revitalization, education and jobs over the next decade.

“Thank you to Bank of America for their incredible investment in our community,” she said. 

The event was hosted at PNM, a computer numerical control machine company. PNM is also a significant employer through Career Nexus. Their goal is to recruit and retain more manufacturing jobs with young workers.

Mario Persicone, director of operations at PNM, said, “With the help of our trade partners from San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance, the Fresno Business Council and now Career Nexus, we’re finally getting the support needed to take manufacturing in the right direction in the Central Valley.” 

The biggest challenge today is employee recruitment and retention, which is imperative to the growth and success of the company, he said. 

Internships and apprenticeships have been part of the company’s history in the recruitment process, and Career Nexus has been integral in connecting people with job opportunities to PNM. 

Savannah Ruiz, a previous intern with United Western Industries, developed a passion for welding through Career Nexus, she said. 

The internships are paid and include a hands-on approach to learning the skills on the job prior to sending graduated interns into the workforce on their own. 

Many people can’t afford to work for free in a traditional non-paid internship. This will help upgrade their skills and then graduate them into a high-paying career. 

“That’s what’s so revolutionary about this initiative, and why Bank of America’s funding is so important,” said Swearengin. 

The Fresno Workforce Development Board is also supporting Career Nexus in the effort to bolster the Central Valley job market and economy. 

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