This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, February 2022.

Recently formed, Inland Empire Black Workers Center (IEBWC) has hit the ground running, building community partnerships and enrolling local workers in its pre-apprenticeship program.

In collaboration with community partners, water agencies, and Inland Empire Works (IEWorks), IEBWS is creating equitable pathways to careers in water and wastewater. The first phase of the program is a pre-apprenticeship, which prioritizes opportunities for workers from Black communities, individuals re-entering the workforce after justice system involvement and workers in communities facing income inequality and environmental inequality.

“We are building leadership all the time,” the organization’s Associate Director, Dr. Nosakhere Thomas said. “Everyone should have a voice and with us, they have a space where they won’t be judged and will be heard.”

Participants in the pre-apprenticeship program are given the training required to enter the apprenticeship program and ultimately a career in water or wastewater. The program offers soft skills in communication, resume creation, leadership and professional etiquette. Participants also receive first aid training, OSHA certification and basic water math prep. They are also enrolled in a credited water course at San Bernardino Valley College. The program is free to participants and supported by funding from the US Department of Education and CA High Road Training Partnership.

In addition to ensuring participants receive relevant and meaningful training, IEBWC is also dedicated to removing any barriers to participation. The organization may help with transportation, childcare, tutoring, Chromebooks and Wi-Fi connections. IEBWC will also help participants who need assistance in getting a valid driver’s license

“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,” Dr. Thomas said.  “We have services built in so that we can remove some of the barriers.”

Participants in the program must be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED, a driver’s license and are required to be vaccinated to attend San Bernardino Valley College. The first cohort will begin on March 21, 2022, and the second will begin in January 2023. Workers interested in finding out more about the program can visit the organization’s website.

IEBWC is actively seeking applicants and sharing information about its program. Dr. Thomas said he has experienced an individual’s hopelessness and despair dissipating with the realization that there is an inroad to a career. Current applicants include a gentleman whose schooling in a water program was interrupted due to COVID-19 and he has been unable to find a job. Dr. Thomas has also connected with people of color who feel they have been challenged by their race in securing employment.

There are 9 Black Workers Centers around the country including IEBWC. The Inland Empire, Los Angeles and San Diego Centers create a Southern California hub where the organizations can support one another, helping to build capacity and sharing infrastructure resources.

Recently, IEBWC received a grant from the Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation to support its efforts in convening and organizing.

IEBWC has a goal of creating new partnerships and finding funders with missions and goals that align with the organization’s work. The organization also welcomes individuals who wish to become volunteers.  There are opportunities to assist with communications to the community, help at events and the organization welcomes volunteers willing to offer their skillset to the cause.

Power is attained by organizing and this power affects policy and everything else changes as a result, Dr. Thomas said.

“Let us strengthen the community together, be heard, and build leadership and change,” Dr. Thomas said. “It’s all for the purposes of justice, jobs and dignity.”

More information: or (888) 461-8885
Photo: (L-R) IEBWC Associate Director, Nosakhere Thomas | California Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary, Natalie Palugyai | IEBWC Community Organizer, Dominique Dean

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