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September 13, 2019

The Sebastopol Rotary Education Foundation and the North Coast Builders Exchange  (NCBE) announced an agreement to bring the highly successful North Bay Construction Corps program to West County, hosted by the West Sonoma County Union High School District.
The Construction Corps is a training program to expose high school seniors to the construction trades.  It holds classes during the evenings and on Saturdays during the last semester of students’ senior year, followed up by a “boot camp” at construction sites during the summer.  The program, which had 150 students at three sites last year, concludes with a hiring conference where many of the graduates can find immediate work with one of the dozens of contractors who come to the event specifically with the goal of finding new, prepared workers, or with unions recruiting for apprenticeship programs.
Although a few students from West County have previously participated in the program, participation was limited because students needed to be able to drive to either Rohnert Park or Healdsburg for training sessions.  Now, the program will be right in their backyard.
Dan Rasmus, the President of the Sebastopol Rotary Education Foundation, explained its role in bringing the Corps to West County: “The Sebastopol Rotary set up its Education Foundation many years ago because of its commitment to educating our West County youth.  One of the goals of the Foundation is to take on really big projects that are best funded with a multi-year commitment.  That’s what we’re doing by funding an expansion of the Construction Corps to our West County kids.”
Because of budget pressures, the West County Union High School District severely reduced construction-related classes several years ago.  When the Foundation went looking for a signature project, filling that void was an obvious need.  Rasmus noted: “While we recognize the importance of providing a great education for students headed to college, we can’t abandon students who want to pursue careers in the trades.  That should be clear to us here in Sonoma County, where the recent fires have underscored our need for more well-trained construction workers to rebuild our neighborhoods.”
The agreement between the Foundation and the North Bay Builders Exchange is the first time that a local service organization has proposed funding a chapter of the Construction Corps.  Robin Bartholow, the Director of the Corps, says: “We are delighted to have the Sebastopol Rotary Education Foundation step up.  We have never had a service organization make this level of commitment, and we are impressed that they’ve reached out to us to make this happen.”
While the Builders Exchange had wanted to expand to West County, there was not enough money to do so until the Rotary’s Education Foundation made its offer.  Now, the Foundation has committed to provide most of the funds necessary to operate the Corps in West County for the next three years.
Rasmus explains: “Over the next three years, we expect to have somewhere between 45 and 75 West County students in Construction Corps.  That will cost approximately $135,000.  The Foundation is prepared to put up the majority of that money from our current funds, and we are going to raise as much of the remainder as possible from our supporters in West County.”
Applications are available Oct. 15th.  Applications are due December 4, 2019.  The program will begin this December by interviewing interested students and then commence classes shortly after the New Year.    Apply online

The NCBE newsletter announcement of this partnership can be found here:

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