Blog: Coastline CUES Programs Providing Hands-On Job Training

Where can a student obtain exceptional, dedicated, hands-on, short-term training for a career in construction and infrastructure, graduate from that program on a Friday, and on the following Monday most of the graduation class start at a higher paying rewarding job in their career? This is attainable through the CUES (Construction, Utilities, Energy, and Safety) Programs offered at Coastline College.

Christopher Elders, a Marine veteran and Coastline CUES graduate, is now working at Permacity Power which is a veteran-operated solar company. He grew up around the construction industry and when he left the military in February of 2013 while trying to transition to civilian life, he got a job through a friend who was working in geology and construction in an oil refinery. Over the next few years, he changed jobs and eventually learned of the CUES program. Christopher studied in his focused curriculum and moved into a much better job opportunity in an environmentally-friendly industry which was important to him. He would not have been able to obtain his position without the CUES program and the support he received from the staff and faculty.

Anthony Smith, another graduate student from the CUES program is now a Safety Tech with Brand Safeway. He had worked in a refinery on a contract basis, but his job potential growth was limited. He did research on trade certificates, found the CUES program and decided to take the opportunity to increase his value as an employee. He described the curriculum of the CUES program as immensely valuable with an amazing totally hands-on staff and support, who were behind him from day one in training, and then networking with relationships to find him a better job quickly once he finished his program coursework.

Coastline College CUES program with its training partner, Career Expansion, has been delivering this much needed short-term pathway and support training for job-readiness in these fields. Courses offered include instruction in core competencies construction skills and safety practices, with nationally accredited Department of Labor OSHA Certificates, CPR/First Aid/AED training, required safety certification and critical job readiness skills. The completion rates have averaged 95% with job-placement rates averaging 80% or more.

The program courses have been made possible through partnerships with respected business and industry leaders, employers, labor unions, placement professionals, and educators. One of these partnerships is with Michael Richardson, a manager of DBE/EEO at SKANSKA, a world leading project development and construction group. Richardson is very pleased with the many students he has hired from the CUES programs. The company is always in need of new employees for their multiple ongoing projects. The CUES programs brings a pipeline of a higher-quality, recently graduated trained students to the SKANSKA project. The students have completed a “pre-apprentice” program where they have learned both hands-on as well as theory, know what trades best suit them, in addition to having a better understanding of the job. Richardson calls it a win-win situation as these new workers are more knowledgeable, better prepared, and therefore a product labor source.

Robert Chavez, manager of the South Bay Workforce Investment Board, is another example of these important partnerships. This agency is part of the One-Stop Business and Career Centers of America’s Job Centers, a cooperative partnership of business, employment development, education, training, and local government in the South Bay area. They know within the 11 surrounding cities the following:

  • Upcoming projects
  • What needs to be filled

The agency helps place CUES students with jobs after completing their programs. Chavez believes the CUES program is a vital training partner to fill the pipeline with high quality trained workers for ongoing construction projects. He has high praises for the CUES program, its staff, and faculty. The agency works closely with the CUES programs as students work with case managers within the agency who along with their instructors’ help guide and determine their trade education goals and exits points.

The positive relationship that Coastline has established with these principals helps ensures that students have the relevant and needed knowledge that is in high demand to provide the most productive and skillful workforce. The U.S. military population transitioning back into civilian life are a large part of this workforce. About 120,000 servicemembers transition out of the U.S. Army per year and another 200,000 servicemembers transition out of the entire U.S. Department of Defense/Military per year, not counting military spouses.

“From the academic perspective, the CUES program has given us the opportunity to expand our offerings to better meet the needs of the current workforce. There is an urgent need to fill positions in the construction, utility, energy, process technology, and safety areas so being able to provide a pathway for trained workers is quite exciting! We work with industry professionals, labor market organizations, utility companies, and on-site training providers to develop relevant curriculum for students to earn stackable certificates which can lead to a terminal degree and career. Our goal is to provide varied and flexible options for participants to enter the workforce with trade and career readiness skills.”

-Cheryl Chapman
Department Chair, Career Education (CE), Coastline College

In the past several years the construction industry has rebounded and is thriving on a broad-based economic recovery. There is an increasing demand for new buildings, roads, and other structures, thereby creating new jobs. It is this industry along with other industries such as utilities and energy that has built the infrastructure of our society. Just in the county of Los Angeles, billions of dollars of construction developments and infrastructure are planned for the next 20 years which include such projects as:

  • LAX Airport Automated People Mover
  • Jordan Downs, the largest redevelopment housing complex in the nation located in Watts
  • Los Angeles Rams’ Stadium
  • Proposed Clippers’ Arena in Inglewood

Furthermore, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is formulating a large-scale innovative transportation infrastructure initiative in preparation for the 2028 Olympics.

It used to be that preparation for construction and infrastructure jobs was obtained through on-the-job training. Over the past decade, there has been a paradigm shift in this blue-collar vocational labor market and there is now a strong demand for more technically-skilled trained workers. Construction regulations, code, and technology are constantly changing. The construction and manufacturing companies need better-trained quality employees who incorporate the elements of both academic theory and apprentice training, with certifying programs and other courses to help keep skills and knowledge current. As a result, the opportunity for community colleges to help prepare and fill this growing labor market gap has magnified and the CUES Program at Coastline College has been a successful example of this change.