Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council announced that the organization has been awarded an $800,000 grant over two years from the California Workforce Development Board to administer UFCW WorkForward, a High Road Training Partnership program that will expand and enhance the union’s training capacity to provide better high-road jobs for workers in California.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on UFCW workers’ essential role in keeping Californians fed and healthy, and strengthening jobs in the food and cannabis sector has never been more important as we look toward  economic recovery,” said Joe Duffle, president, UFCW Local 1167. “Even though they’ve been deemed essential, these workers still lack the infrastructure needed to support middle-skill career growth. With UFCW WorkForward, we will help create career ladder opportunities to jobs that pull workers out of poverty and sustain their families and help the state overcome inequality.”

With the grant funding, UFCW WorkForward will create regional convening groups of UFCW local unions, interested employers, and community organizations in three areas – Southern California, Northern California and the Bay Area. The regional groups will collaboratively identify grocery retail and cannabis job skill needs, career ladders, and sustainable training and funding mechanisms to ensure workers have jobs that are safe, skilled, and stable.

“The ability for UFCW, our employer partners, and local workforce boards to come together and join forces to determine regional and employer-specific training needs,  including addressing language barriers and access to technology, is a game-changer for California,” said Jacques Loveall, president, UFCW 8-Golden State. “Removing training conversations from contract negotiations and moving to a collaborative approach under UFCW WorkForward will only help us better identify and formalize sustainable job training programs to improve our members’ lives and the communities they support. This is especially important in high growth areas like the cannabis industry.”

UFCW in California has decades of experience training workers and creating pathways to good, high-skilled jobs. Through the grant, UFCW WorkForward will continue providing workforce training programs such as the Meat Cutter Apprenticeship in Northern California and a required Cal/OSHA 30 hour training program for licensed cannabis businesses. The funding will also allow the union to develop a new cannabis apprenticeship program and create a new meat apprenticeship program in Los Angeles. The grant funding will also be used to transition these trainings to remote learning platforms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re so proud that the California Workforce Development Board saw the potential of UFCW WorkForward to solidify UFCW’s place in high-road job training in California,” said Jim Araby, director of strategic campaigns, UFCW Local 5. “With the program we can really target and focus our training efforts on priority populations and under-represented members of our communities to expand access  so workers can better meet the technical and real-life needs of the future.”

“On behalf of the California Workforce Development Board, we prioritize workforce investments to create career pathways, provide employees training, and support high road employers, said California Workforce Development Board chair Angelo Farooq. “The High Road Training Partnership established by UFCW supports essential frontline grocery workers while creating quality job pathways. I look forward to the continued work and partnership to build a stronger workforce system for California.”

“Even through this challenging year, Perfect Union has seen incredible growth throughout the state. I believe the UFCW WorkForward program will be integral to the success of our company-wide training programs as we continue to expand our operations,” said David Spradlin, CEO and Founder of Perfect Union. “We were honored to be a part of the original apprenticeship program and are very happy this grant will bring the program back. We look forward to continuing to lead the state in providing union backed cannabis jobs. We appreciate the partnership with UFCW and look forward to a successful 2021.”

Successes built by the UFCW WorkForward program will be expanded to include additional industry partners in the future.

Source: UFCW Western States Council