College of Marin Trades Program Prepares More Grads

Eighteen students will graduate next week from a construction trades program at College of Marin, joining nearly 100 others to pass through the curriculum since it started in 2018.

The program — a partnership among College of Marin, Canal Alliance in San Rafael and the Marin Builders Association — has had 115 students reach graduation, including the 18 students in the current group, said Axel Flores, workforce development manager at Canal Alliance.

“We only have three out of all 115 of our students who are unemployed,” Flores said Friday.

The current course began Oct. 11. The graduation event is scheduled for noon Dec. 11 at the college’s Indian Valley Campus in Novato.

The course took place at the Novato campus to give students access to construction equipment needed for the class, Flores said.

“The benefit of taking this class is learning to develop new skills to work in the field of construction and to further my career and make more money,” said Armando Huinac, one of the current students.

According to Flores, Canal Alliance provides a full suite of support services to each student in the program, including job interview training, resume services and job placement assistance. The nonprofit also keeps a spreadsheet of local employers to help graduates find work.

“Our mission has been to connect Latino residents with higher paying jobs in the construction industry,” Flores said. The target pay level when the program started was at least $21 per hour, he said.

“The significance of the class training is to add to the students’ existing experience,” said Tom Eller, the instructor for the course, which is tuition-free.  “More training to improve their value as an employee and increase their confidence in construction.”

Eller, a contractor in Woodacre, added that “knowledgeable employees are a direct asset to the employer and to the community.”

Kevin Quispe, a student, said the program has helped in other areas of his life beyond construction skills.

“I have gained more confidence by taking this class,” Quispe said. “It has helped me overcome my fears and to see a brighter future.”

“I know I have options in other career paths,” he added. “I now can help friends who need help in construction.”