Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly, chair of the Fontana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, speaks to students as part of the Professional Skills Certificate program.  Kelly is the co-owner of Santa Fe Machine Works in Fontana.

Several dozen high school students are learning real-world employability skills at Etiwanda High School as part of a model partnership between the Chaffey Joint Union High School District and the Fontana Chamber of Commerce.

The Professional Skills Certificate program offers training to more than 60 students over six Saturdays through mid-November on subjects ranging from dressing for success to how to get promoted to conflict resolution. Business owners and managers are teaching the courses, offering real-world insight on how to succeed in the workplace.

The program was developed by the Chaffey District in partnership with the Fontana Chamber, and represents a new way of thinking when it comes to addressing the labor needs of local businesses, said Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who helped establish the newly created Fontana Mayor’s Education Coalition. Local school districts meet regularly with business and community leaders to discuss ways to better prepare Fontana students for the workforce.

“Our whole approach in Fontana is bringing like-minded stakeholders together to address the needs of businesses while creating career opportunities for our young people. The Professional Skills Certificate program is a wonderful example of how, in a collaborative model, we can build a workforce of the future,” Warren said.

The first classes were held Sept. 7. Additional sessions are scheduled for Sept. 21, Oct. 12, Oct. 26, Nov. 2, and Nov. 16. Business leaders who are participating in the program include Julie Kelly (Santa Fe Machine Works), Jason Zara (World Financial Group), Phillip Cothran (Goosehead Insurance), Holly Stiver (Crown Technical Systems), Amy Loera (Tio’s Mexican Restaurants), Raj Sangha (Dhindsa Group of Companies), Vanessa Ortiz (Globally Exclusive), Artina McIntosh (Empowering Success Now) and Ken Lindt (Harbor Truck Bodies).

After completing the coursework, students will receive certification, which they can include in their resumes.

“We’re extremely grateful for the support of the Chamber and individual businesses in providing students with this valuable training,” said Dr. Mathew Holton, superintendent of the Chaffey District. “It’s a significant investment of time and resources on their part, but the payoff will be even bigger, in terms of how their knowledge and expertise will positively impact students’ lives.”

Fontana Chamber President Phil Cothran, whose son is teaching one of the classes, said the Professional Skills Certificate program will help students understand what is required of them in the workplace.

“Fontana is an ideal community to establish this kind of working relationship between schools, the business community and local government,” said Cothran, who also serves as chairman of the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board (WDB). “The fact that nearly 30 percent of our population is under the age of 18 creates a sustainable labor pool that can and will drive even more business opportunities for our community.”

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