San Bernardino Valley College is doing its part to strengthen the local water and wastewater workforce.

SBVC is partnering with the Inland Empire Black Workers Center to provide a pathway for individuals seeking a career in water and wastewater. This free program offers assistance to workers from the Black community and areas facing income and environmental inequality and people re-entering the workforce after incarceration.

The first cohort started on March 21, and a second will launch next January. inland empire black workers centerThe program is open to individuals 18 and older with a high school diploma or GED and a driver's license. Assistance is available for those who need help obtaining their license.

"We are building leadership all the time," Inland Empire Black Workers Center Associate Director Nosakhere Thomas said in a statement. "Everyone should have a voice and with us they have a space where they won't be judged and will be heard."

The first step is taking part in a pre-apprenticeship program. Over the course of three months, participants will learn everything from how to write a resume to first-aid training. They will also earn Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification and enroll in a water course at SBVC. Once this portion is completed, the participants will be ready to start an apprenticeship.

The program doesn't just focus on learning — there is also assistance for people who need transportation, childcare, tutoring, laptops, and WiFi.

"We realize and understand that these small barriers have kept people out of the workforce and out of the pipeline to be equipped and prepared for work," Thomas said. "We have services built in so that we can remove some of the barriers."