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Partnering with Merit America to help Solano residents land higher-paying jobs

California Forever partners with Merit America to provide Solano residents with training programs, helping them secure higher-paying jobs. A $140,000 grant will fund technical courses, aiming to bridge the income gap and boost economic mobility in Solano.

By California Forever · Wed May 29 2024

Fairfield resident Kalen Hammond was working as a mechanic in an auto shop. It was a job that paid the bills, but it wasn't the career Kalen had envisioned or where he wanted to be. To change that, in November 2021, Kalen enrolled in a training program with Merit America. A little over three months later, Kalen earned a certificate that helped him land a higher-paying job as an IT Network Analyst, which offered more stability, more consistent hours, and more money. 

To help more Solano residents do the same, we’re excited to announce a new partnership with Merit America, a nonprofit organization building pathways for hundreds of thousands of workers in low-wage roles to move into the middle class.

​​The East Solano Plan is bringing affordable homes and better-paying jobs to Solano County. As part of the plan, the $400 million Solano Homes For All Guarantee was designed to help Solano residents purchase those homes, and the $70 million Solano Scholarships Guarantee was designed to support Solano residents getting those jobs by providing funds for training.

Two weeks ago, we announced that we are bringing new employers to Solano County in industries like advanced manufacturing, aerospace, agricultural technology, biotech, and construction, and directly creating hundreds of jobs in our solar energy business. The $70 million Solano Scholarships program is here to help Solano residents access the training they may need to land these jobs.

To start building the scale and partnerships needed to use that $70 million well, we are launching a pilot program with Merit America. The initial pilot includes a $140,000 grant from California Forever that will pay the lion's share of the cost for a class of Solano County residents to participate in Merit America’s upcoming local training courses. This $140,000 grant is separate from, and in addition to, the $70 million we will be contributing gradually during the build out of the new community to 50,000 residents. 

Through the program, learners can gain technical credentials and skills for new careers in IT Support and Data Analytics. They will receive real-time support from a professional coach and a group of peers, learn on a personalized schedule, and connect with employers. Merit America has run programs in Solano County before and has demonstrated proven success in more than doubling the participants’ salaries. No prior associate, bachelor, or graduate degrees or prior training are required. 

Learn more about the program and apply directly here

This is an exciting milestone as we look to help Solano residents prepare for new careers coming to Solano County. In just the last two decades, the gap between average household income in Solano County compared to other Bay Area counties has tripled. Average household income in Solano County is currently 30% lower than in other Bay Area counties. We have heard from Solano residents that they want to close that gap, and we are excited to get started on making that happen,” said Justin Esch, Head of Business Development at California Forever

Merit America is committed to providing pathways to family-sustaining careers for the millions of Americans stuck in low-wage jobs. We believe in California Forever’s vision to bring new employers to Solano County and unleash the incredible potential of this area. By providing access to equitable avenues for economic mobility, we can enable more residents like Kalen to secure upwardly mobile careers,” said Connor Diemand-Yauman and Rebecca Taber Staehelin, the co-founders and co-CEOs of Merit America.

“I am thrilled about this new partnership and California Forever’s continuing commitment to invest in the Solano County workforce. After announcing new employers interested in bringing jobs to the county and now training to help residents access the training they may need to land these jobs, they are delivering on their promises. I look forward to hearing more about the residents who participate and take advantage of this fantastic opportunity,” said Becky Craig, former Executive Director of the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce.

This is just the beginning. We look forward to hearing more stories like Kalen’s as we roll out additional training programs and partnerships in the months and years to come. 

Learn more about the program and apply directly here

Frequently Asked Questions:  

  • How will Merit America use the $140,000 grant from California Forever?

Merit America will use the grant to recruit and train Solano County residents for careers in IT Support and Data Analytics. Participants in the program will have the majority of their program costs covered through the grant from California Forever, meaning that Solano residents will only need to pay $2,000 – which can be covered with no upfront cost. More information about the Zero Percent Loan can be found here.

  • Do I need to be a Solano resident to apply? Can families stationed at Travis Air Force Base apply?

This program is only for Solano County residents, with one exception – if your spouse is stationed at Travis Air Force Base but you live outside of Solano County, you can still apply.

  • Are there any other prerequisites? 

To be eligible for the program, you must have a high school diploma or GED, be 18 years of age or older, be a fluent English speaker, reader, and writer, be a resident of the U.S., and be authorized to work in the U.S. You must also be seeking full-time employment upon completion of the program. No prior associate or bachelor degree or prior training is required to participate in this program – but are always welcome. Graduate degree holders aren't eligible for our program.

  • Is there an application deadline? 

You must submit your application by June 24th at the latest. Once you submit, the application process takes 7 days on average to complete. 

  • When does this program start and end? 

Participants can register for one of the following courses:

-IT Support, July 16 – October 31, 2024
-Data Analytics, July 16 – November 11, 2024 

After the completion of technical training, both courses also require up to 6 months of Job Success programming which is focused on helping participants land a full-time job. Participants should expect to dedicate 20 hours/week to the course, with 3-5 hours being live meetings. 

  • How will applicants be chosen? Will people get denied?

After you submit your application, you will begin a selection process. This includes three key steps: a brief questionnaire, a short course on remote learning, and an interview. If you make it through each of these steps, applications will then be considered on a first come first serve basis. If you are accepted, you will then have to self-select in and confirm your spot in the class.

  • Am I guaranteed a better-paying job after?

While we can’t guarantee you a job or a specific salary, we can promise we’ll be there to help you every step of the way on your career journey. Our program offers a structured training curriculum, professional career coaching, and job-placement support. Because of this, the majority of job-seeking alumni are placed in new jobs within three months of completion. 

  • Will you be expanding your partnership with Merit America? Are Merit America programs definitely going to be eligible for the $70 million Solano Scholarships program?

Merit America has extensive proven success, and we’re excited to enter into this pilot partnership phase with them. However, if the East Solano Plan is approved in November 2024, the decision on how the $70 million Solano Scholarships program will be made through a community engagement process, and ultimately approved by the Solano County Board of Supervisors. See page 4 of the East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative for details on eligibility criteria, governance, and more will be determined.