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Santa Rosa Junior College will soon have a construction and building trades training center on its Petaluma campus that will provide skilled workers needed training to help rebuild the thousands of homes lost in the 2017 Sonoma County wildfires.

SRJC President Frank Chong, U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John Fleming announced a $7.1 million federal grant for the training center Monday morning at SRJC’s Santa Rosa campus.

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration’s disaster relief funds.

California National Guard Homes in Santa Rosa, Calif. destroyed by the October 2017 wildfires that raged through Sonoma and Napa counties.

Chong said:

“I’m thrilled that SRJC will be able to provide high-quality training for students who want to enter the building trades at this new facility. This is another way that the college will help build a foundation for Sonoma County’s future.” 

A study by the Los Angeles-based research firm Beacon Economics identified the need to build 30,000 more housing units in the next 10 years to account for the county’s fire loses, overcrowding and employment growth, according to the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

There also is an annual gap of 3,600 prepared workers in the construction trades in the North Bay, the board said.

The SRJC’s North Bay Regional Construction and Trades Employment Training Center will offer short-term career skills classes that lead to non-credit certificates in construction and building trades, home repair and maintenance, industrial and residential construction methods, construction project planning and supervision and fire prevention through landscape.

Nik Wojcik/SFBay Home destroyed by the October 2017 Tubbs Fire in the Napa Valley, Calif. area.

SRJC also will offer credit programs that take one to four semesters to complete. They include HVAC, refrigeration technician, solar panel technology and construction management.

Nancy Miller, SRJC’s director of regional adult education programs, said:

“The center, operating at full capacity, should be able to produce up to 500 skilled jobseekers each year, which will make a big impact on the critical shortage of trained workers in the construction industry.” 

The total cost of the training center is $8.9 million. It includes a $1 million matching grant from the Tipping Point Community foundation and $780,000 in a SRJC land match. The training center, which includes 10,000 square feet of flexible lab space for training in trades and professions, is expected to be completed in January 2022.

Federal officials Monday also announced that the town of Paradise in Butte County will receive $300,000 from the federal Economic Development Administration to recruit and hire a disaster recovery manager to oversee recovery and emergency management planning.

Paradise Town Manager Lauren Gill said 95 percent of Paradise’s 5,000 structures were destroyed in the 2018 Camp Fire. She said the town also will need skilled trade workers to rebuild.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr The Camp Fire began in November 2018 and burned more than 150,000 acres in Butte County, Calif. The fire decimated the town of Paradise and caused at least 86 civilian casualties, making it the deadliest wildfire in California history.

Gill said about the SRJC training center:

“It’s a great a project. I would love to see this too up north.” 

Thompson said:

“This exciting federal grant is a huge win for our district — investing in our building trades workforce, addressing our housing shortage head-on and boosting our local economy. I was proud to support the disaster package that included funding like this for disaster-affected communities across our nation and proud to support the grant application.” 

Huffman said:

“(The training center) will drive economic success for the community, students and employers.”

He said:

“I’m looking forward to seeing the results.” 

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