California Senate Passes Bill to Expand ‘Earn and Learn’ Job Training and Employment Opportunities for Community Members Striving to Overcome Workforce Barriers

For Immediate Release

Senator Becker’s SB 779 Now Goes to the Assembly for Review

SACRAMENTO – The California Senate unanimously passed legislation by Senator Josh Becker today to provide opportunities for training paired with employment for veterans, the unhoused, people exiting the justice system, and other vulnerable jobseekers who are often shut out of the workforce.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on our state’s most vulnerable workers,” said Senator Becker, D-Peninsula. “Even before COVID 19 struck, workers with barriers to employment – our veterans, the housing insecure and formerly incarcerated persons – were struggling to find opportunities to earn a living. I thank my colleagues in the Senate for their support of my bill to give these community members a better chance at success in our workforce through innovative training and work models.”

Senate Bill 779, the senator’s first to clear the Senate, provides greater opportunity by expanding the types of “earn and learn” programs recognized by the California Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. The bill specifies that transitional jobs and subsidized jobs, as provided by worker cooperatives and employment social enterprises, known as ESEs, are embraced by the California Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. As such, they may be considered by the state Labor Workforce Development Boards when funding “earn and learn” programs.

“ESEs and worker co-ops are innovative, evidence-based approaches that train employees while they’re earning a paycheck, radically transforming the lives of people who are all too often seen as unemployable,” Senator Becker said. “Offering skills training and employment together is one of the best ways to enable successful returns to the workforce and strengthen our economy long-term.”

According to Senator Becker, his eyes were opened to the possibility of such social entrepreneurship 24 years ago when he became aware of a program by the Roberts Development Enterprise Fund, which is cosponsoring SB 779 along with San Francisco Jewish Vocational Service.

Today, 80% of all employees of employment social enterprises are justice-involved and 75% are Black or Latinx.

Examples of employment social enterprises include:

  • Homeboy Industries, which employs almost 600 former gang members or previously incarcerated individuals while they undergo an 18-month job training program.
  • The Community Housing Partnership’s Solutions SF, which trains and employs formerly homeless individuals in front desk staffing jobs.
  • The Center for Employment Opportunities, which employs about 3,000 formerly incarcerated Californians annually in 10 locations.
  • Goodwill California, which employs and trains over 19,000 Californians.

“This measure will support job training efforts as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic by modernizing the existing workforce structures and meeting the needs of those overcoming workforce barriers,” said San Francisco Jewish Vocational Service in its letter of support. “We are pleased to be part of these efforts to recognize new and innovative solutions.”


Media Content: Leslie Guevarra,, 415-298-3404