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Expanding Workforce Programs for Employment Needs

“I got a job at a grocery store after I got laid off a few weeks ago.”- Baker

“They helped me sign up for EDD (Employment Development Department) and helped me understand the process. They worked with me step by step. This process took a couple of weeks. They were able to help get my current needs met like food.”- In Childcare and a Hair Stylist

“They [the workforce team] connected me with a job at a security company after I got furloughed.”-Barista

“Since the program, I’ve expanded business. Thank god I’m still able to work! I’m doing contracted work and editing.”- Photographer

Ask anyone in our workforce programs and these are the stories you hear. When you ask our workforce teams what sort of services they provide, they will most likely tell you, well everything. This is not an exaggeration.

The landscape of employment have been affected as states have closed non-essential businesses and issued stay-at-home orders. Movie theaters, bars, and event spaces have closed entirely, while grocery stores, home care, and shipping and transportation jobs have increased hiring due to demand. Coronavirus derailed numerous companies, but more significantly, it derailed employees, leaving communities in the dark as to what they could do next for income. Millions in the U.S. have been laid off, furloughed, and are seeking assistance. Families are scrambling for support in food, housing, and job security resources. Shelter-In-Place has also transformed access to childcare, which further exacerbates employment options as many people who still have potential work don’t have a safe place for their children. “We help with tangible things we can do right now. Our mission is to keep people housed and stable in every way possible. There are a lot of agencies that have closed their doors [from COVID-19]. I’m glad to be [part of] an organization that people are still turning to. We are still counted on.” -Maureen Guerrero, Director of Service Connector Program.

People find the Y’s employment support programs through indirect paths. YMCA Service Connectors link people to programs that provide the services specific to their needs, but often, an individual or family’s needs are intertwined. One person may seek assistance for mental health support and, after an assessment, develop a plan to get them stable with employment resources. Many times these issues aren’t singular, so assistance with employment and housing, for example, may reduce stress and add to a healthier mental state.

That was the case for Joe, a 22-year old student who was a part-time restaurant worker until COVID-19. He originally reached out to a YMCA Service Connector in search of therapy and food resources. Andrew Guzman, a YMCA Service Connector, noticed Joe would benefit from additional resources. Due to Shelter-In-Place shutdowns, they began to look at employment alternatives. Working together, Joe was able to secure a delivery job to supplement loss in wages. Andrew also helped Joe develop a payment plan with the DMV so that he could get back to work and doing delivery.

Through a combination of public support and grant funding, YMCA Workforce Programs and Service Connectors work in concert with partner organizations and government agencies. One great example of this is Portero Hill housing, which is working with the Mayor’s Office to support long distance learning by providing laptops for youth who cannot go to school and may not have access to a computer at home. Similarly, the Y’s Workforce programs collaborate with other agencies around education, housing and financial literacy guidance, among other services


“A lot of people are sitting in a place of fear now. They come to us asking, ‘Where can I even get a job? I don’t think I’m qualified in that? But I have children and I’ve always been a babysitter.’ Well, we know of Emergency Centers that may like your life experience for the job.” – Angela Scott, Associate Director of Workforce Development.

The Y’s Workforce Development Programs offers foundational support for job seekers in technical training, life skills and resume building workshops. Programs focus on tech and design, culinary fields, healthcare support and more.

The Y’s Entrepreneurship Program began when so many people requested one-on-one meetings to discuss their own business ideas and gain access to resources, the staff realized there was a consistent need. The creation of the program was a direct response to the community’s need. The demand was so high that the first day of the program, the class was full. “I had a waiting list the first day!”- Angela laughs. Participants in the Y’s Entrepreneurship Program build a business plan, a marketing plan, and even learn how to get a business license, loans and grants so they can get their business idea off the ground.

"After the Y Tank now what? We got laptops to be able to work on them. Let’s take this full throttle and look into grants. I will look into buildings that are open for leasing. That’s my next step after Shelter-In-Place." -Naja Turner, Y Tank Winner 2020 Bizzy Bodies University

“I would recommend this program to anyone trying to start their business and network. Great way to grow as a business and personally. Struggles and stay motivated, or you’re blocked. -Taisha Britton Photographer Company TBritts Photos

Because of COVID-19, these workshops, like the majority of the Y’s programs, are now digital, and more people of all ages are invited to join. The newest Y program to support employment is the Virtual Job Fair. Held live on Instagram every Wednesday at 4pm PST Y staff promote various employers who are hiring locally, and offer valuable resources to help job seekers find work during the COVID-19 crisis.

“3 days after shelter-in-place we started Virtual Job Fairs. Every job was changing so quickly.”- Angela Scott, Associate Director of Workforce Development.

During the Virtual Job Fairs a wide range of employers are highlighted, from bigger corporations like Safeway and Amazon to smaller businesses doing more deliveries, and even different jobs within the healthcare sector. The last Virtual Job Fair partnered with Homebridge Quality Home Care who joined the Y's live Instagram feed to promote Homebridge's job listing. Homebridge Quality Home Care offers certifications, provides transportation alternatives, and the starting pay is $18 an hour for employees. For many people who are looking for jobs, this may be a perfect fit.

The Y’s Workforce Development Programs also provide ways to initiate new careers. Program workshops include resume and cover letter building, mock interviews, interview clothing swaps and more. While some job seekers are eligible to work in essential jobs, others cannot because they may shelter-in-place with multiple people or generations with health conditions that may make them higher risk. With the workforce landscape constantly changing, the Y’s Workforce programs and Service Connectors are here to help participants navigate those workforce needs and still advance in their careers.

“I learned life skills like self-awareness, communication, power of networking and interview prep. I also learned how to build websites, and I do that as a side hustle now.” - Barista and Website Designer


“Angela taught me how to go after my dream and never say no to myself. Chef taught me how to work in the kitchen and taught me the skills to work successfully in a kitchen. After the program, Angela helped me sign up for the culinary program to go after my passion for baking. Workforce is a place that has helped me with way more than work. They have helped me be a better person.” -Baker

Lately the workforce teams and social connectors are focused on digital literacy, E.D.D. (Employment Development Department) applications, and advocacy around rent. But there is a brighter future for us all to look forward to. As the job markets change, our communities adapt. YMCA Workforce Development teams continues to provide innovative workshops that support communities and inspire healthy change.

Angela Scott is looking forward to her newest Leveling Up Program. The program provides access to certifications and other additional skills that will help participants work towards their dreams and goals.

“There are trainings out there. Coding programs that are now $50. We wanted to highlight that.”-Angela, “Living your passion and purpose is priceless, moving forward that’s what I want.”

It’s not just Angela who is focused on making dreams come true. It’s clear that when given the resources, people can do remarkable things, even during COVID-19. YMCA Workforce Development Programs, and the dedicated staff who create and run them, are here to empower our community members to bring their dreams to life.

Join us every Wednesday at 4pm PST on Bayview Instagram channel (@bayviewymca) for live shows that highlight what jobs are available, what job resources are available, and join our community.