Nonprofit A Hand 'n Hand Career Training Center Opens in Hacienda

Fast-Track Courses Offered to Aid Students in Acquiring New Career Tools, Skills

The month of May started with the launch of an exciting program developed by new Hacienda tenant A Hand 'n Hand Career Training Center. Fighting back against high unemployment, on May 7 the nonprofit public benefit organization opened its classrooms at 5980 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 110 to students eager to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the job market.

"We believe the retail industry is the backbone of the national economy and prosperity, regardless of the products or services offered," states Sharon Van Brunt, the Center's CEO and Executive Director. During this challenging time of shrinking consumption, "professional and customer-oriented practices and policies are indispensable," she says.

That line of thinking, coupled with Van Brunt's many years as the director of a for-profit post-secondary college, prompted her to establish a training center that focuses on putting its graduates to work. A Hand 'n Hand's six courses are all fast-track, two to six weeks long, addressing the gamut of pertinent concerns in the job-seeker's universe - not just the standard resume writing and interview strategies but also social networking, money management, and dressing for success. The instructors are all professionals from the industries they are teaching about, "not volunteers," Van Brunt emphasizes.

Structured much like the workday, classes run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, with an hour for lunch and two 15-minute breaks. "Students are here to learn. We're very strict on time management and the behavior that employers expect." At the same time, there is sensitivity to the obstacles students might face. BART tickets and appropriate business attire can be provided. Using Hacienda's ECO Pass program, students can take the bus from BART to school for free. Through another arrangement, the nearby Extended Stay America offers special rates for out-of-town participants in the program. Expecting students from as far away as Sacramento, Santa Cruz, and Marin, Van Brunt wanted to cut down on their drive time.

Even before admission, students must identify three firms where they would like to work. "While they're in school, our placement office calls the target employers, setting up interviews when they graduate," Van Brunt explains. At the end of the training, students are video-taped doing a mock interview to build the confidence to ask for the job.

Van Brunt was inspired to create the training center after her previous employer, which also provided training, closed its Hacienda campus. "I had watched a lot of lives change, and I didn't feel it was over yet," she recalls. "Our training concepts could be applied to a more generic curriculum. We developed a model that now serves far beyond just a single industry. With a lot of support, here we are today, as a nonprofit."

That support comes from a Hand' n Hand's board of directors, several agencies, nonprofits, and businesses that share her concerns about putting people back to work. In addition to the Hacienda relationships, Van Brunt has forged partnerships with the state Employment Development Department, Congressman Jerry McNerney's office, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, Workforce Investment Boards, and veterans and senior organizations.

"We also want to be the first phone call from any business that is hiring, whether for full-, part-time, fill-in for vacations, or contract work," she notes, adding, "our placement services are free." For more information, visit .

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