Monday, October 29, 2012

Building Tunnels and Building Lives

Robert Shumate put in the work to go underground

In the fall of 2011, Robert Shumate, a recent graduate of Alameda County’s Cypress Mandela Training Center, attended the Miner Tender Preparedness Program. Shortly thereafter, he put his training to the ultimate test at the New Irvington Tunnel project.  Robert quickly excelled and gained the trust of his peers, learning all aspects of working in extremely challenging and potentially dangerous conditions. Robert came to work each day with a positive attitude and a great work ethic, and within a short period of time, he was not only working on a tunneling project, but IN a tunnel. A feat which surpassed the expectations of his training. In addition to providing a stable income for himself and his family, Robert gained unique work skills specific to mining, making him  a “hot” commodity in the industry and open to a wide range of work opportunities across the nation.

Robert’s success is a testament to his hard work.  His opportunity to shine was made possible by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SPFUC) and Southland Tutor Perini’s (STP) commitment to hire locally for the $4.6B Water System Improvement Program (WSIP).   In addition to Robert, half of the New Irvington Tunnel project’s workforce is made up of local residents meeting the goals of the SFPUC’s local hire program.  This means a portion of the ratepayers investment into improving the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System is also putting people to work in communities where our projects are located.

Whether it is local workers or local small business the 
SFPUC and STP are committed to the San Francsico Bay Area
© San Francisco Public Utilities Commission R. Scheswohl

“Southland is enthusiastic about tapping into the Bay Area’s talented and diverse workforce”, said Michael Cash, Regional Manager for Southland Contracting, Inc. “In addition to exceptional people like Robert, we've also provided nearly $10 million in construction contracts to local small businesses.”

The SFPUC is committed to training future members of the Bay Area’s workforce.  The WSIP goal is to have one apprentice worker for every four journeyman workers on each capital improvement   project.  Tunneling is not an apprenticable trade so this contractor made sure to place junior workers in above ground roles and has exceeded this goal with  32 percent of workers in apprentice positions. 

The Job Training Opportunity Program (JTOP) where  Robert gained his training  is a great example of how the SFPUC, contractors, unions, and community-based organizations partner to create opportunities for local residents to receive the skills, training, and support necessary to help them attain successful and sustainable careers in construction.

Robert Shumate (R) stands tall with Tunnel Superintendent Jack Bowling (L)
Photo by S. Bednarz, ©2012 Jacobs Associates, All Rights Reserved

Robert recently reached another major milestone by completing  all apprentice hours required for Journey-level status! He is now one of the elite mining workers in his union and shares a proud heritage with the many other miners before him.  Congratulations to Robert and all of the other JTOP trainees!

For more information visit the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s local hire program page.

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