Local Union Leader Says For Richmond is Helping Put Residents to Work

Willie Hicks. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, Black American Political Action Committee.

By Post Staff Willie Hicks knows that an unacceptable number of Richmond residents cannot find steady work. He also knows it’s not from lack of trying. “I have 82 people on the list right now who are out of work,” he said. “Some of them call me every day.” Hicks has worked nearly 20 years to put city residents to work in the construction industry as a business representative for Laborers International Union of North America Local 324. Now as the jobs committee chair of the For Richmond coalition, he is looking forward to creating opportunities that create jobs in Richmond – and providing the training needed to prepare residents for those jobs. For Richmond is a new, community-based organization that’s uniting the community and taking active steps toward tackling issues facing Richmond residents in the key priority areas of jobs, health, safety and education. Hicks has served on For Richmond’s steering committee since last year. After years of economic downturn, prospects in Richmond are now looking better than they have in years. Projects such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and ongoing renovations at the West Contra Costa Unified School District mean new construction jobs are on the horizon. The jobs are on the way, and Hicks said he’s focused on making sure residents are ready. Thanks to RichmondBUILD, Contra Costa College, the school district and numerous other community organizations, residents have more resources than ever before to learn a trade, go to college or hone professional skills that will help them in the labor market. Now, Hicks said it’s all about matching out-of-luck jobseekers with those programs and helping them realize the possibilities. He said he was thrilled to see so many people sign up for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Business Expo and Job Fair on May 9 at the Richmond Memorial Convention Center. The event featured local programs hoping to train new talent for the rush of anticipated jobs in Richmond. For Richmond also hosted booths showcasing various construction training and apprenticeship programs. “Job fairs like this are exactly what we need because they help folks learn about what’s out there and even better, find out how they can pick up the skills needed to succeed,” Hicks said. Along with the Council on Industries and the Chamber of Commerce, For Richmond is hosting a breakfast on May 23 to encourage local businesses to either sponsor a young person or hire a program participant. Local businesses interested in sponsoring the program or hiring a program participant are encouraged to attend. More information is available at 4richmond.org. Hicks said he is also excited about the work For Richmond is doing to prepare young people for the workforce by giving them work experience through the city’s local summer jobs program. “We need to get our young people out there, excited about work and aware of the opportunities,” Hicks said. “At For Richmond, it’s all about putting folks to work.”
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