(Photo: Building Skills Partnership)

Training to advance a frontline workforce

As part of its mission, a California nonprofit works to upskill property service workers

Building Skills Partnership (BSP) is a California nonprofit that focuses on creating an equitable playing field for janitors and other property service workers through training and other initiatives.

In 2004, BSP developed its first flagship program consisting of workplace English and job skills training. In 2007, BSP incorporated and became a statewide nonprofit that annually serves 5,500 participants through its various programs.  

“We fall under different buckets. One of them – which is what I think we’re known for – is a workforce development bucket. That’s where we develop a lot of workplace training,” explains Luis Sandoval, the organization’s executive director.

He continues, “The second bucket is around immigrant inclusion programming and the third bucket is community advancement.”

Sandoval notes an additional pillar for the organization focuses on public policy and advocacy.

High-Road Training
Luis Sandoval, executive director, Building Skills Partnership (Photo: Building Skills Partnership)

Included in BSP’s workforce development programming are a variety of – what are described as – high-road trainings that lead to certification for frontline workers.

“We see this as a win-win, right?” says Sandoval. “I think that’s a perfectly good way to describe the high-road training partnership model because it forces us to really think about what’s a win for labor in terms of workforce development.

“And for employers – how do we upskill workers? How do we meet the demands of tomorrow while also meeting the demands of today which intersects with what labor wants.”

Among the trainings, the Infectious Disease Certification program which was developed in quick response to COVID-19 when the virus was first being reported.

“We have a really amazing team who understands and is sensible to the needs of our workers and has an ear to the ground understanding how we need to respond to the needs of workers,” notes Sandoval. “How do we make sure that we’re in front of it? And how do we make sure that as a player and a partner, we provide some support to this industry as a whole?”

He continues, “How do we also talk to our different partners and the state about investing in this particular program to scale that program across the state? That’s what we’ve been able to do. There have been a lot of different partners – entry and exit points that have supported this project.”

Advancing Frontline Workers
Daniel Diaz, janitor, Service by Medallion in Sunnyvale, California

Daniel Diaz is a janitor with Service by Medallion in Sunnyvale. Responding to WorkingNation’s questions via an interpreter, he says that BSP training was essential with the onset of the pandemic.

“The Infectious Disease Certification program was and still is a very important program because it provides a lot of information on infectious diseases and how they spread, how we as janitors can be affected and come into contact with them.”

Diaz continues, “We learned how we can protect ourselves and others in and outside of work.”

He has also participated in the Green Janitor Education program, as well as the Digital Navigator program which is part of BSP’s Digital Literacy program.

“When we’re talking about equity, we also have to think about ensuring that the digital aspect is included as we’re thinking about the future of work,” explains Sandoval.

“We found out in our workforce, it’s fragmented learning. They have fragmented skills around digital skills. Within the training that we offer, we pair with other skills building so we have that hybrid learning model. For example, our Infectious Disease Certification program, is linked to digital literacy.”

Looking Forward

“I have had great opportunities, thanks to BSP. My past program coordinator for one of the classes that I was taking saw the potential in me,” says Diaz.

“Being a Digital Navigator has provided me with personal growth, and the new knowledge that I have gained could open the door for me in other companies in the future should the opportunity arise,” he explains. “It has also provided me with satisfaction to know that I can help others and provides me the opportunity to keep my knowledge fresh in my mind by teaching it to my peers.”

Diaz says, “Looking ahead in the future, a career goal of mine is to learn English and work in human resources at a company.”