Labor sec. visits Center for Employment Training in SJ

SAN JOSE, Calif.

6,500 students a year attend classes at the Center for Employment Training, a San Jose-based non-profit that works closely with the private sector to match job applicants with job openings, especially if they are qualified and properly trained. U.S. Labor Sec. Hilda Solis met with one student Monday, a former farm worker who's switching careers.

Some are fresh out of high school. Others are victims of company layoffs. Whatever their situation, they share a common goal to find a job against the odds. "I was laid off back in November of last year and found it very difficult, especially without a college degree, to find a job in this area that wasn't just entry-level, working at fast food," medical assistant student Kyle Bahre told said.

Solis, said she wanted to learn first-hand how job training is doing to reduce the 8.7 percent unemployment rate in Santa Clara County. She dropped into a class for electricians, another for culinary arts, and one for medical assistants. "We're going to need more physicians. We're going to need medical assistants. We're going to need also people who speak different languages. So this is, to me, a prime program that has already demonstrated that there are good outcomes, that people find jobs," she said.

One student, an aspiring pastry chef, got to speak with Solis directly. The program will mean he will no longer work in the fields harvesting romaine lettuce. "I worked in the fields. My parents have worked in the fields. My whole family works in the fields and I just didn't want to have the same path as them," culinary arts graduate Rafael Alvarez. Farmworkers have been among the hardest hit by unemployment. The latest jobless statistics reflect that with Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Martin in double digits, compared to 8.7 percent for the county average.

The training center's CEO says by working closely with private employers, more than 80 percent of the graduates land jobs. "As students who remain in class see others that are graduating and getting employment, that really lifts their hopes," Center for Employment Training CEO Hermelinda Sapien said.

Solis will head to San Francisco Tuesday to visit a summer job program and and another center that helps veteran train and find jobs.

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