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California Labor Secretary Tours Rialto Water Treatment Facility

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Anthony Mendoza
/
Uplift + Empower
California Labor Secretary Natalie Palugyai speaking at the Roemer Filtration Facility in Rialto.

On Dec. 16 California Labor Secretary Natalie Palugyai took a tour of the Roemer Filtration Facility in Rialto.

Secretary Palugyai's main focus for the visit was to learn more about the I.E. Works program, which recently received over a million dollars in state grant money.

Gracie Torres is the Western Municipal Water District Vice President and shared more about the program. "I.E. works overall want to bring more water and wastewater jobs to the Inland Empire from underserved communities. We want to have more women, people of color, basically reimagine water," said Torres.

The program is a collaboration between 14 Inland Empire water agencies and helps facilitate internships for those wanting to get involved in the water industry. But it's just not internships that the program provides.

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Anthony Mendoza
/
Uplift + Empower
California Labor Secretary Natalie Palugyai stands with Gracie Torres, other elected officials, and participants of the IE Works internship program.

Torres added, "Essentially we pick up a student and say we want you to be successful, how do we do that? Do you need childcare? Do you need transportation? We've provided support to get driver's licenses. We're going to pay certification fees. And then we also give a bulk of that money to the water agencies that are accepting these interns and paying them."

The program comes as Inland Empire water agencies expect over 800 new water job opportunities in the next decade because of retirements and other factors.

Secretary Palugyai just started in her position in July and shared more about her goals while in office. She said, "And one of the top priorities for us is thinking about new ways that we can be investing in workforce training and what we should be focusing on is quality jobs and also kind of creating a new narrative about pathways to jobs."

Palugyai says the motivation for this program and many others is that they want to disrupt the model that you need to go to a four-year university to get a good job. "So I'm here to learn more about this program, but also to congratulate everyone and to encourage replication of these types of investments and models more broadly," added Palugyai.

The I.E. Works program currently has 12 placed interns and soon hopes to create an apprenticeship program that'll serve 20 individuals.