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The ‘Strong Workforce Program’ Launched Three Years Ago; How is it doing today?



OPINION: By Vanessa Thomas, associate dean of the program at Chaffey College, explains.

The Ways of Work

California launched the Strong Workforce Program in 2016, investing $248 million per year to lift low-wage workers into living-wage jobs by creating workforce development programs at 113 California community colleges.

How is it doing three years later and how is it helping students and employers in the Inland Empire?

Vanessa Thomas, associate dean of the program at Chaffey College, explains.

Q: What is a Strong Workforce?

A: Strong Workforce satisfies the emerging needs of the industry by giving the students the skillsets they need to qualify for living-wage jobs. Students get hands-on training with state-of-the-art equipment currently being used in the field so they can transition seamlessly from the classroom into entry-level jobs. This ultimately bridges the skills gap between labor and industry. This program has seen great success throughout the state, including where I serve at Chaffey College. We awarded more than 2,000 career and technical education degrees and certificates – programs under Strong Workforce – in May. This represents a nearly 40 percent increase from five years ago. And the success rates for our students taking these courses is about 10 percent higher than students taking other courses.

Q: What are the top six job areas in the Inland Empire?

A: Students interested in pursuing in-demand careers in this region should consider college majors that encompass:

  • Advanced manufacturing – including industrial maintenance and robotics technicians, machinists, and welders
  • Advanced transportation and logistics
  • Business and entrepreneurship
  • Energy, construction, and utilities
  • Healthcare
  • Information communication technology and digital media – including cybersecurity

Q: How are Strong Workforce programs different than other programs at community colleges?

A: Strong Workforce programs are intended to make students qualified for a job right after earning an associate’s degree or certificate. But they don’t have to stop there. These students have the option to continue on to earn bachelor’s and other advanced degrees for even better jobs.

Q: What lies in the future for the industry in the Inland Empire?

A: Our No. 1 industry here in the Inland Empire is logistics. The future of the logistics industry is automation, which is kind of scary because that means that some lower-skilled workers could lose their jobs. But we have alternatives for them to be retrained in a skillset that will allow them to feed their families. We can train them in mechatronics and industrial automation because that’s where it’s going. Then students can design, build and maintain that equipment.

Q: Can students actually get good jobs on associate’s degrees alone?

A: Yes. We’ve had students earn management positions in the auto industry, journalism internships with the Walt Disney Company, industrial electrical technician positions with California Steel Industries and more. And that’s just with an associate’s degree. Some of these students who have gone on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees have been hired or promoted to even higher-paying jobs in their chosen fields.


The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

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By Press Release

Stater Bros. Charities and Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling Give Back to Military Families



Stater Bros. Charities, the philanthropic arm of Stater Bros. Markets, partnered with Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling again this year for their Give Back program during National Military Appreciation Month. The program ran for the entire month of May, during which Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling committed to donating $0.25 per eligible product purchased to the Bob Hope USO. Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling donated $15,000, and Stater Bros. Charities matched their donation for a total contribution of $30,000.

A check presentation occurred during a K-EARTH 101 radiothon benefiting the Bob Hope USO. The radiothon took place at the Bob Hope USO at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) on June 29, 2023, where Stater Bros. Charities and Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling presented Bob Hope USO with a $30,000 check.

Bob Hope USO’s mission is to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. The Give Back program is a unique opportunity to show gratitude and support to the brave men and women who risk their lives for our freedoms and to care for their families while they are away from home on deployment.

“Stater Bros. Markets has a long history of supporting veterans, service members, and their families,” said Danielle Oehlman, Director, Stater Bros. Charities. “We are so pleased to partner with our friends at Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling and the USO to give back to those who have given so much for us.”

Lorin Stewart, President, USO West Region, said, “We are deeply grateful to Stater Bros. Charities and Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling for being sustaining partners of the USO. The Give Back program embodies the essence of the USO mission by enabling the community at large to come together to support and give thanks to our armed forces and their brave military families in an impactful way.”

Funds will support the Bob Hope USO and USO San Diego Center operations, including programs and services that strengthen the social, mental, physical, and emotional well-being of local military service members, their families, and their communities.

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By Press Release

BDK Logistics Intelligence Fully Leases 114,190 SF Industrial Facility in Corona, CA



Cushman & Wakefield represents landlord in lease in SoCal’s Inland Empire

Cushman & Wakefield announced that BDK Logistics Intelligence, Inc. has signed a lease for an entire 114,190-square-foot industrial facility at 1161 Olympic Drive in Corona, California. Situated in Southern California’s renowned Inland Empire, the building is owned by Monterey Rancho Mirage, LLC, which was represented by Brett Lockwood and Rick Ellison of Cushman & Wakefield in the transaction.

“We are pleased to welcome BDK to the property as a quality industrial tenant that is expanding its presence in the market, which it also currently occupies multiple warehouse facilities,” said Director Brett Lockwood. “Our client was instrumental in helping this deal transact as there were many variables that needed to be navigated which led to this lease coming together quickly and successfully.”

1161 Olympic Drive is a quality freestanding building situated on ±4.8 acres and features 20 dock high loading doors. The property is conveniently located off Interstate 15 near the confluence of SR 91 and is proximate to the extensive freeway network traversing the entire Greater Los Angeles region and into other major markets in and out of state.

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s latest Q2-2023 quarterly report, the Inland Empire industrial market posted an overall vacancy of 3.4% and has recorded more than 2.7 million square feet of positive net absorption through the first half of 2023.

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Bizz Buzz

Hernandez resigns as County CEO; Snoke will continue filling in pending Board action



Leonard X. Hernandez resigned from the post of County Chief Executive Officer effective today. County Chief Operating Officer Luther Snoke has been filling in for Hernandez while Hernandez has been on leave and will continue to do so. The Board of Supervisors will act to appoint an interim or permanent CEO shortly.

“The Board of Supervisors appreciates the service Leonard provided to the public and the County organization, especially as we navigated our way through the pandemic and other very difficult challenges,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Dawn Rowe.

Hernandez provided the following statement:

“It has been an extreme privilege to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of San Bernardino County. I am thankful to the Board of Supervisors for their leadership and the hard-working men and women who do amazing work every day. Due to an urgent family health issue that requires my immediate and undivided attention, I have informed the Board of my resignation. Under the strong leadership of the Board of Supervisors and the County’s executive team, the County will continue doing great things for the residents of San Bernardino County.”

“The Board of Supervisors is committed to a seamless transition in staff leadership with no interruption in County services or impact on County residents or employees,” Rowe said. “Luther has performed well filling in for Leonard and I am confident in his ability to continue serving in this role until the Board takes action.”

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