Laid off Ashley Furniture factory workers get new skills to re-enter the workforce

SAN BERNARDINO, CA – Twenty-five workers laid off from the Ashley Furniture factory and warehouse in Colton in 2016 learned new job skills at the San Bernardino Community College District and the Chaffey College InTech Center. The culmination of the training was a job fair Tuesday, April 3 organized by the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department.

“When the Ashley Furniture warehouse in Colton closed and outsourced jobs overseas, our community rallied around the displaced workers and promised that we’d have their backs,” said Congressman Pete Aguilar, D-San Bernardino. “Through their hard work and a strong partnership between federal and county government agencies and local community colleges, these former Ashley employees took a big step today toward reclaiming their futures.”

Aguilar urged the U.S. Department of Labor to provide unemployment funds available under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act. The federal program gives relief to U.S. workers who lose their jobs as a result of foreign trade.

“This is an example of the collaborative work necessary to train our workforce to meet the needs of the county’s economy today and into the future,” said San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert A. Lovingood.

Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino, Assembly member Eloise Gomez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, and the California Employment Development Department also stepped in to support the displaced workers.

Through the San Bernardino Community College District and the Chaffey College InTech Center, workers received tuition-free training to gain new job skills.

They participated in 200 hours of classroom and hands-on instruction in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), construction trades, welding, and industrial maintenance electrical and instrumentation (IME&I).

Careers in these fields pay an annual median wage of about $46,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Major local employers participated in the April 3rd hiring event to meet their new talent pool, including Arconic, a metal construction company in Fontana; Dollar Tree, Inc.; National Core Renaissance, a non-profit affordable housing developer in Rancho Cucamonga; South Bay Foundry, Inc., a steel fabricator and distributor in San Bernardino; VForce Staffing Solutions, an employment agency in Fontana; West Coast Industries, a furniture manufacturer in Los Angeles; and United Association Local 398, an HVAC, pipefitters and plumbers labor union based in Pomona.

As an incentive to hire, the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department offered to reimburse employers for half of the money they spent training new employees during the first 600 hours of their new job.

“Anyone who has lost a job, regardless of what the circumstances, deserves the educational, advanced training and employment support to get back on their feet,” said San Bernardino Community College District Chancellor Bruce Baron. “Today is a testament to our community’s strong partnerships to ensure everyone has opportunities to advance in our new economy.”

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