Modesto-based code academy Bay Valley Tech has received its second annual nomination for the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards, a statewide recognition awarded to individuals and organizations across a variety of fields.
The award recognizes those “whose innovative solutions to critical state challenges improve people’s lives, create opportunity, and contribute to a better California,” according to the foundation’s website. Winners receive a grant of $250,000 from the foundation, as well as additional resources.
Bay Valley Tech offers free, seven-month coding classes to local students that prepare them to take on jobs within the tech industry. Additionally, alums of the program volunteer with the program after completing their own courses, as part of Bay Valley Tech’s “pay it forward” model.
Bay Valley Tech and founder Phillip Lan were nominated for the award by U.S. Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock.
Harder told the Bee that it’s a “no-brainer” to support a program with the reach of Bay Valley Tech and “do everything we can to try to make sure that we can double down on one of the real education training success stories that we have.”
Lan said the support from Harder’s office means “a tremendous amount.”
“We as an organization and I think as a community have worked very hard to ensure that we have broad support for this initiative,” Lan said. “We’re all trying to push this car uphill together. The more support we have for this effort the better.”
The award’s $250,000 grant would be of enormous help to Bay Valley Tech, Lan added, as there is far more demand for the school’s programs than there is funding. The money would allow the school to admit students off their waitlist and ultimately connect more people with local tech jobs.
Lan said the current goal for Bay Valley Tech is to train 1,000 students, and eventually expand their programs even further.
Harder said that especially in a region like Stanislaus County, where only 17% of residents have a four-year college degree, according to the most recent census data, supporting alternative educational opportunities that help residents gain job skills is critical.
Traditional college degrees aren’t always accessible or the right choice for every individual, Harder said, so providing opportunities for local workers to gain skills for high-paying jobs through other programs helps ensure that these kinds of jobs don’t just go to workers from the Bay Area, but can be filled locally. Programs like Bay Valley Tech, Harder said, represent “one of the other pipelines that make sure that folks can work hard to get ahead.”
Harder added that the region needs a three-pronged approach for job creation and retention: expanding and supporting local employers, attracting new companies and putting a focus on entrepreneurship and business creation.
But the first step, he said, is ensuring there are local workers ready to step up to the task.
“I don’t think we’re going to be developing semiconductors in Modesto anytime soon,” Harder said, “but we have an incredible strength in agriculture and food processing, and we can connect those with the 21st century jobs that are here with us today.”
‘This story was produced with financial support from the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of this work.
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