Meet Nora Sobolov, Executive Director of JobTrain

Q: What is JobTrain about and what do you all do?
NS: JobTrain began with this vision: when you level the playing field, provide the right supports, and believe in people, everyone has the potential to succeed. JobTrain helps the most needy individuals and families in Silicon Valley to transform their lives from poverty and unemployment to self-sufficiency and sustainable careers. JobTrain does this by providing a range of services including full-time vocational training programs at no cost to the students to prepare them for careers in high-demand fields. Our comprehensive services provide “whole person” support, which means students not only learn skills but they can also access job placement support, counseling, benefits, legal support and job success training.

Training programs at JobTrain include Business Administration Skills, Culinary Arts, Laborers Construction Fundamentals, Medical Assistant, Professional Health Care Worker, Project Build/Green Technology/Carpenter Pre-Apprenticeship, and our brand new, Web Developer Coding Bootcamp. In addition, we also provide childcare for children of trainees and the broader community. The JobTrain campus also houses a Peninsula One-Stop Center for job seekers and Single Stop which helps individuals and families enroll in public benefits such as Cal-Fresh and health care as well as help with legal and immigration issues. We also have GED prep, skills upgrade and English language classes.

Our program is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). In JobTrain’s 50 years of serving the San Francisco Bay Area, the organization has a proven track record of helping people transform their financial and personal situations.

Q: What do you love most about JobTrain and the work that you all do?
NS: Recently, during our Trainee of the Month program – a time when we celebrate the accomplishments of our students and they, in turn, share their stories – a young man performed a rap poem about his life. He talked about all that he had overcome to join our construction class, his experience with racism, his conflict with the law and his determination to become successful and keep his infant son from experiencing what he had experienced.

The students are my inspiration: hearing their stories, seeing them in their red robes at graduation, and listening to students ring the bell to tell everyone in the community that they have a job are what I love most about JobTrain. 

Q: How has JobTrain made a difference and what impact do you still wish to see JobTrain make?
NS: Since we began in 1965, over 190,000 individuals have benefited from JobTrain’s programs and services. Over the past 5 years, our graduates have earned more than $43,000,000 and the money they earn is spent in the local community, helping to support fam-ilies and community businesses and institutions. Our strong part-nerships with local employers ensure that our programs continue to meet the needs of the current job market. Each vocational train-ing program works closely with a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) who ensures our curriculum is up to date and provides in-ternships and jobs for graduates. We work with over 70 employers which helps to explain our 82% placement rate and close to 90%rate of people working a year later. Plus the Sheriff’s office tells us that those who were previously incarcerated and go through our program go back to jail at a much lower rate.

We have exciting partnerships with the Laborers and Carpenters Unions which provide a road to construction jobs and, with our partners at Goodwill of Silicon Valley, we have opened a second co-hort of our Laborers construction program in San Jose. We have just begun a partnership with the Sequoia Union High School District to offer JobTrain programs for students at Redwood High School, a continuation school. And we have just opened our first of many so-cial enterprises with our partner CALSO: WISE SV’s Rendezvous Café and catering, at the Sobrato Center in Redwood Shores.

JobTrain would like to expand our impact by increasing the num-ber of people who can access our existing programs by taking our programs to locations throughout the Bay Area, through train the trainer, online access and evening programs. The need is great; in fact, we have over 150 on our waiting lists just for our medical assistant and coding boot camp. We are also trying to increase the opportunities for our students. We are partnering with both SeSequoia Adult School and Cañada College on pathways that allow people to train for better paying jobs immediately but also access college credits to further expand their possibilities.

Q: What would you like the world to know about JobTrain and how can people help make a difference?
NS: JobTrain is uniquely positioned to help those most in need. JobTrain services are free, and to help them remain free, contributions to cover the cost for training our students and providing them the support they need are invaluable and make a lasting contribution to our community as our students move into careers.

We also have many volunteers who teach in our Essential Skills program which is quickly becoming the gold standard for other programs like ours. As teachers, mentors and role models, individuals and companies from across the Bay Area help teach skills essential to getting and keeping a job, including one-time volunteers who review resumes or conduct mock interviews. Many others participate as guest lecturers in our programs.

Q: What is it you would like to say to potential Donors and Volunteers? Why is JobTrain so special?
NS: It’s important to remember that in the Bay Area, so many people are one paycheck away from homelessness. One of our students, Louisa, had a husband who worked in technology while she provided home-based care. Her husband passed away unexpectedly as did her employer and instantly she had no income and a great tragedy to overcome. JobTrain gave her an opportunity to not only train for a career and find a new pathway, but also a community of support that helped her with the myriad of other challenges that people in her situation face.

And that, in a nutshell, is the magic of JobTrain. Training alone is not enough. We have to create a launch pad for people to move to the next level of employment. We create the winning combination through our program and our ties to many employer partners, volunteers, donors, foundations, community groups, education groups, government and stakeholders. Together, we ensure that those most in need succeed.

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