Five coworkers

Inroads to employment

The Fresno DRIVE initiative helps Central Valley residents with skills training and access to well-paying jobs in the area

The Central Valley is among the fastest growing regions in the U.S. Yet its largest city and bellwether, Fresno, is grappling with high poverty rates, educational shortfalls and economic disparity based on race. More than 60% of Fresno's 520,000 residents identify as Latino and 40% of children under 18 live in poverty. According to Brookings Institute, even in pre-pandemic Fresno, 45% of its residents struggled to make ends meet. Fresno's unemployment rate is generally double that of the state and five times higher for Black and Latino residents.

Yet, there are 34,000 unfilled "good and promising" jobs in high growth industries in the area (according to McKinsey & Co, 2020), suggesting there’s a misalignment between workers’ skills, training and access and open jobs. In 2019, local civic leaders launched Fresno DRIVE (Developing the Region’s Inclusive and Vibrant Economy), a 10-year, $4.2 billion economic development plan to address these issues. The plan was formed by a 300-person steering committee representing more than 150 local nonprofits, community leaders, neighborhoods, institutions and businesses.

DRIVE is composed of 18 individual initiatives that address racial and economic disparities focusing on three interconnected priorities: Neighborhoods, human capital and economic development. Together, the 18 projects represent a collective effort that, in total, will create 50,000 new jobs, train 64,000 workers, support 3,400 small businesses, and create further opportunities for Fresno residents.

Bank of America supports DRIVE’s “Upskilling and Pathways to Employment” initiative, which is led by Career Nexus, and establishes the Career Network Hub to convene employers, workforce development groups, local government and community partners to prepare current and future workers for promising careers. This funding is part of the bank’s $1.25 billion five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.