In a county with 11.3 percent unemployment, even the prospect of a job can bring hope. Pam Middleton and 30 others now have visions of their futures.
"They told us from the gate you aren't guaranteed a career, this is just a leg up on the competition so from there, you push yourself," Gareau Barron said.
Barron, a single father of three, has been out of work for a year, but now he has a good shot at working for East Bay MUD as a plumber. The district expects one-third of its staff to retire in the next five years, and has helped fund a pool of replacements that reflects the community. Friday, students graduated from a nine week program at Laney College that taught them the basic skills.
The entry level pay for the job is roughly $5,000 a month, plus benefits. In these tough economic times, to get a job with a public utility, the students see such an opportunity a well-worth going for.
"I need this job more than anything," Barron said.
East Bay MUD expects eight or ten openings in what it describes as the "near future." That hiring process might begin as early as next month, which could lead to a competitive twist.
"They are my friends and when we finish here they will be my rivals," graduate Pamela Middleton said. "And when we're finished, we will all be fellow employees. We will all be working together."