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Hundreds apply for beef plant training

April 04, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

For years Sofia Solorio has worked in packing sheds. It's not easy work, but she doesn't mind hard work to help support her family.

The problem is packing shed work is seasonal. Solorio said she wants full-time work.

For that reason Solorio found herself at the state Employment Development Department office in El Centro on Tuesday filling out an application for a training program that will lead to jobs at the under-construction beef plant in Brawley.

Solorio is one of a growing number of people seeking such applications in the three days since the filing period opened for the training program.

Officials at EDD offices in El Centro, Brawley and Calexico said since Monday there has been a steady stream of people seeking applications.

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More than 700 obtained applications Monday. Tuesday and this morning people continued to pour into the EDD offices.

Calexico EDD officials said they have handed out nearly 1,400 applications; El Centro EDD officials said they have passed out more than 500 and Brawley officials said they have passed out 500.

The training program will be open to 600 people in the Imperial Valley, the number that would be employed at the plant.

Training will be provided by the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program, which received a $689,000 state grant to train 200 people.

After receiving the grant, IVROP officials teamed with other local agencies to open the training to 400 more people.

The training for the 200 covered by the grant will include English courses along with training provided by B.P. Ventures, the company that owns and will operate the beef plant.

The 400 trainees not covered by the grant will not go through English classes but will have the industrial training. That industrial training will start in July.

In May IVROP will start screening applications and select the 600 to go through the program.

The plant is expected to open Oct. 1 and B.P. Ventures officials have said they want to have 600 people ready to wok that day. The jobs will be full-time.

Solorio, an El Centro resident, is looking to be among the 600 selected.

"I'm willing to accept any position they offer me," Solorio said, adding, "I just want to work full-time."

Solorio's sentiments were echoed by others filling out applications at the El Centro EDD office.

All those interviewed said it is tough to find full-time employment in the Imperial Valley, adding they are happy to see a company offer 600 jobs to local residents.

El Centro resident Hector Bugarin said he recently lost his job with an Imperial Valley farm operation that laid off a number of workers.

He said of the beef plant training program, "I think it is a good opportunity because it will be long-term. It will be in the Imperial Valley for a long time.

Calexico resident Jose Luis Barrientos said he works in construction but such work is not stable.

He said opportunities like the one offered by B.P. Ventures don't come often. He likened the opportunity to those offered in recent months by Calexico Tissue Co. and the Gossner Foods cheese plant east of Seeley.

El Centro resident Richard J. Stockfeld said for 11 years he has been a truck driver and is ready for a change.

"This seems like a real big opportunity to get off the road," he said. "I've been on the road 11 years and I'm tired."

Initially the beef plant will hire about 600 people to work one shift. B.P. Ventures officials have said if the plant is successful a second shift could be added. That would increase the number of jobs to 1,200.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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