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Press Release

New Report: Inland Empire’s First Black Worker Center Addresses Black Job Crisis with IE Works Partnership


By Emily Jo Wharry

New Generation of Essential Water Workers Graduate from Transformative Apprenticeship Program


Emily Jo Wharry, UCLA Labor Center, (310) 617-5609

Report: Inland Empire’s First Black Worker Center Addresses Black Job Crisis with IE Works Partnership
New Generation of Essential Water Workers Graduate from Transformative Apprenticeship Program

CALIFORNIA — On Tuesday, July 18, the Inland Empire Black Worker Center (IEBWC), UCLA Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work, IE Works and the UCLA Labor Center released a new report, “Unlocking Potential: The Inland Empire Black Worker Center’s Transformative IE Works Program,” that showcases the results of their pioneering workforce development model, which has a 95% completion rate.

The newly-formed IEBWC was created to address a Black jobs crisis in the Inland Empire, an area of California where Black workers have the highest unemployment rates compared to other racial groups, and have the lowest median earnings across the region. The organization has implemented a pre-apprenticeship program for IE Works, which prioritizes the respect and dignity of Black workers while also preparing them for high road jobs in the water/wastewater sector.

Since March of 2022, two pre-apprenticeship cohorts totaling to 23 participants have completed the program, and a third cohort is currently underway. A year after the first cohort’s graduation, half of the participants either have full time jobs or internships in the water sector.

“This program has been invaluable and a testament to why we need more Black workers in leadership to make a true, equitable change, because only we know our struggles,” said Whanita Fawcett, a graduate of the IE Works pre-apprenticeship program. “Being in a program that affirmed that and supported me in building my career is enabling me to set an example for my children and grandchildren.”

The program shows that in order for workforce development programs to successfully serve Black workers, they must be driven by a diverse group of community-centered organizations advancing a Black worker center model for workforce development.

“The reason why they had a near 100% completion rate was clear in the interviews and focus groups,” said Deja Thomas, program manager at CARE at Work. “The participants felt incredibly supported, motivated, and in community in a way that was nearly incomparable based on our literature reviews.”

“The response to our pre-apprenticeship program in the community has been favorable, and demand for our most recent cohort actually exceeded our expectations,” said Dr. Nosakerhere Thomas, IEBWC executive director. “It goes to show that the demand for high road jobs for Black workers is strong, and it will be imperative to meet that demand as new opportunities come down from federal and state funds.”

Download the report:


About the Inland Empire Black Worker Center:
The mission of the Inland Empire Black Worker Center is to build a Black worker-led movement that successfully organizes for quality jobs, economic and social mobility, and advocates for policies through cultural practices that ensure Black workers, their families, and the community thrives. Established in 2021, the Inland Empire Black Worker Center has convened union organizers, community builders, educators and faith leaders to address the regional unemployment crisis within the Black community living in the IE. Learn more:

About the UCLA Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work:
The Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity at Work (CARE at Work), housed in the UCLA Labor Center engages Black workers and economic justice advocates and facilitates innovative solutions that address the needs of Black working-class people. Through a school-to-movement pathway of service, teaching, capacity-building, and research, our purpose is to reveal conditions of Black work in Southern California under global racial capitalism and model approaches for change.

About IE Works:
IEWorks is dedicated to strengthening the water/wastewater workforce in the Inland Empire. With substantial funding from the US Department of Education and the CA High Road Training Partnership, IEWorks partners with Bay Area-based JVS and BAYWORK to leverage their success and best practices. IEWorks will increase the number of highly qualified candidates for mission-critical positions in the water/wastewater industry, while ensuring economic equity across the Inland Empire. IEWorks will develop a diverse talent pipeline through apprenticeship, internship and career awareness opportunities.

About the UCLA Labor Center:
The UCLA Labor Center believes that a public university belongs to the people and should advance quality education and employment for all. Every day we bring together workers, students, faculty, and policymakers to address the most critical issues facing working people today. Our research, education, and policy work lifts industry standards, creates jobs that are good for communities, and strengthens immigrant rights, especially for students and youth.