Putting California to Work

Picture of Chuck Riojas

Preparing a Future Workforce

June 20, 2017 – California High-Speed Rail may be in its early stages, but it is already making a difference in the lives of people in the Central Valley. Chuck Riojas, Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties, oversees a pre-apprenticeship training program created with the Fresno Workforce Investment Board using over a million dollars they received in state grants.

Working with local unions through the Building and Construction Trades Council of Fresno, Madera, Kings & Tulare Counties, the program identifies and trains workers for careers in construction. The goal is to enable them to work on the high-speed rail project as carpenters, equipment operators, cement masons, laborers and all the other jobs the project will need.

Pre-apprenticeship training program

The program focuses on 12 targeted groups, identified in the high-speed rail project’s Community Benefits Policy, including people either lacking basic requirements for employment like a driver’s license or high school diploma, as well as those with bigger issues such as a criminal history. “They all have barriers to employment,” Riojas said. “It might be extreme or might not be, but they’re all seeking jobs.”

The six-week program offers a core curriculum of construction basics like reading a tape measure and math using fractions and decimals. Students also learn how to become more easily employable by learning to create a resume and how to interview.

Classroom work takes up the first two weeks, followed by “hands-on” training for the various occupations that give students their first experience in construction activities. Students then choose a profession to pursue and can apply for the various unions’ formal apprenticeship programs.

For more information on the pre-apprenticeship program go to HSRjobs.com.


Picture of worker, Eddie Drayden.

Being the First

November 10, 2015 – The first worker to be dispatched to the high-speed rail project was Eddie Drayden from local 294. When Drayden initially joined the Laborers' Union 23 years ago, he never imagined he would be working on a project of this magnitude.

"I put a lot of effort into my work," says Drayden. "I helped build Valley Children's Hospital, various highway interchanges, and now I can say I helped build high-speed rail."

Today, he works on the future Fresno River Viaduct where he carries out various tasks and facilitates the success of the crews around him.

Born in Los Angeles, Drayden now calls Fresno his home. In fact, he hopes to retire on the project in a couple of years and looks forward to riding what he built in the not-so-distant future.


Picture of worker, Larry McDonald.

Staying in the Central Valley

November 9, 2015 – More than fifteen years ago, Larry McDonald made a decision to change careers that allowed him to stay in the Central Valley. After an extensive time in construction and automotive management, McDonald is pleased to have found an opportunity on the high-speed rail project not far from his home in Clovis, California.

"This is awesome. I was waiting for a couple of years for this project to start, " McDonald said.

He was one of the first workers to break ground on the project. He's a heavy equipment operator and has used large Caterpillar loaders, excavators and blades to build a construction yard, help test soil, steel rebar and concrete for bridge foundations and grade properties after buildings have been demolished.

Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, the design-build contractor for Construction Package 1, was impressed by McDonald's work. "I was their first rehire. And so far, I've been called back four times." He's worked on a couple dozen properties which were purchased for the high-speed rail project.

McDonald is optimistic about the future, "I'm working at one of Tutor Perini's sister companies while I wait for more work with high-speed rail. I have no doubt that they're going to call me back again."


Worth Every Mile

June 26, 2015 – Victor Stefanini of Dos Palos was doing odd jobs as he found himself out of work for a year and a half. He traveled 130 miles round trip to take part in the Multi-Craft Pre-Apprenticeship program.


Training Unemployed Workers in the Central Valley

June 26, 2015 – Blake Konczal, Executive Director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board, describes the Multi-Craft Apprenticeship program and how to sign up for it. The program assists unemployed workers in getting jobs in construction and public infrastructure systems.


Getting Back Into the Workforce

June 26, 2015 – Luis Bustamante of Modesto was out of work from an injury and joined the Multi-Craft Pre-Apprenticeship program to enhance his skills in electric and pipefitting work.


Setting an Example in the Community

June 26, 2015 – Che Lee of Atwater joined the Multi-Craft Pre-Apprenticeship program to set an example for women and her community to join the construction industry. The program assists unemployed workers in geeting jobs in construction and public infrastructure systems.


Image of Rick Ferdinandsen

Becoming Your Own Boss

May 15, 2015 – Nineteen years ago, Rick Ferdinandsen made the decision to become his own boss by founding Sequoia Western Construction. Amongst many services, the Fresno-based company secures vacant properties; provides parcel cleanup services, rehabilitate properties, installs fencing, plumbing fixtures and electrical, changes out windows and doors and provides weeds abatement.

Working as a subcontractor to Authority Right of Way Contractors Universal Field Services and Overland, Pacific and Cutler, has allowed him to "smooth out the bumps" in an otherwise seasonal business. "I like to keep myself and my workers busy, and this project allows me to fill in the gaps and keep working," said Ferdinandsen.

Opportunities with these contractors represent a little less than a third of his company's business which employs anywhere from 3-12 people. Incentivized by this project and the prospect of additional contracts, Rick went through the process of getting his Small Business Enterprise certification. He hopes to continue growing Sequoia Western Construction and his newer business Centec Environmental Inc. Centec's 4-5 person licensed crew abates hazardous material such as lead and asbestos.


Women of Construction Image Link

Honoring National Women in Construction Week

March 5, 2015 – In recognition of National Women in Construction Week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is honoring the women who are working to build the nation's first high-speed rail program in the Central Valley. You can read the profiles of three of the women working on this project by clicking on the picture above. As construction advances, the Authority remains committed to promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace.