April 22, 2019
Alliance member Taller San Jose Hope Builders in Santa Ana (Orange County), California provides life and job skills training to disadvantaged young adults to help them achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. Participants receive skills training for high demand jobs in construction, IT, medical assisting and business office applications.
Last year, the organization decided to add staffing to its training model, initially in construction. Moving from a more traditional approach of 16 weeks of training, then job placement and retention support, they now begin with 10 weeks of training followed by 10 weeks of temp-to-hire staffing and post-hire retention support. Within the first three training cohorts placed in temp-to-hire assignments, 69% of candidates converted to external employment.
During the 10-week training phase, classes are held daily from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, and the curriculum includes OSHA 10 and CPR certification and introduction to a new construction trade each week, with occasional field trips. Trainees receive a $75 weekly stipend and are subject to random drug testing and limits on absence/tardiness to stay enrolled. About half of the training phase participants complete the course, with substance use relapse a common reason for dropping out.
Individuals who complete the training select 3 to 4 employer partners for interviews leading to placement into 10-week temp-to-hire positions on Hope Builders’ payroll. During the staffing phase, candidates earn $12 per hour for 40 hours per week, spending 32 hours (Tuesday through Friday) on-the-job, plus 8 hours in Hope Builders’ office for case management and life skills training. Employers are billed for 40 hours per week at an average rate of $20.50 per hour, and worker wages increase to at least $14 per hour upon conversion to hire.
The initial results are promising. External job placements are up by a third and average wage rates have risen from $12.50 to $14.36 per hour, compared with the former approach.
Still, implementing the new enterprise has brought challenges. Deputy Director Christa Sheehan explains that operating the staffing business has been a big cultural shift for the organization, leading to changes in its training and coaching, and requiring case managers to adapt to the greater need for accountability to employer clients. As the business grows, hiring staff who have both business development experience and an understanding of their job seekers’ social and emotional barriers has also been difficult.
Hope Builders offers its graduates continuing support and tracks their job retention for 6 months after conversion to hire. So far, this rate is about 50%, due in part to the sporadic nature of construction work. A current priority is to identify additional job opportunities to provide more stable employment and ensure that the training curriculum teaches candidates how to “hustle” for the next job.
Over the next 12 months, Hope Builders is planning 5 new training/temp-to-hire staffing cohorts of 25 persons each, including 3 in construction and 2 in IT. With this growth, their goal is to double their current customer portfolio of 20 employer partners to 40.