San Francisco, CA
2008 Director’s Community Leadership Awards
|San Francisco||Richmond BUILD Program
In early 2007, Sal Vaca, Director of Employment and Training Development for the city of Richmond, met with city officials and representatives from private industry to develop a radical solution to Richmond’s mounting violent crime problem. Although the city of Richmond has a population of just over 100,000, it has been a hotbed of violent crime in the Bay Area for years. Last year in Richmond, law enforcement reported 1,220 incidents of violent crime, including 47 murders, making the city the most violent per capita in the Bay Area.
Mr. Vaca proposed Richmond BUILD as a long-term solution to the city’s crime problem. In May 2007, after only two meetings, with the full backing of the city of Richmond and dedicated corporate sponsorships, Mr. Vaca launched the most innovative crime reduction strategy in the area.
Richmond BUILD is a 10-week, intensive pre-apprenticeship program that prepares Richmond residents for well-paid careers in the construction industry. Candidates must be Richmond residents, have a GED or high school diploma, be at least 18 years old, and be eligible to work in the United States. They must each pass a basic math and reading test, agree to be drug tested, and complete an interview. Program staff estimate approximately 40 percent of their participants have a criminal history.
Richmond BUILD dedicates a significant portion of time to training participants in the varied skills connected to solar panel installation. Moreover, toward the end of the program, students conduct real-world installations at no cost for homeowners in the city of Richmond. In this way, the program goes beyond merely training and skill development for at-risk individuals; it gives back to the community by giving participants a personal stake in their neighborhoods while helping to alleviate the burden of high utility costs for low income residents.