Training in the Freddie Evarkiou Culinary Arts program at Father Joe’s Villages.

By Deacon Jim Vargas

In the midst of San Diego’s housing crisis and competitive job market, it can be incredibly challenging to secure a well-paying job and an affordable place to live. For our neighbors who are homeless, the task can feel impossible.

For many individuals experiencing homelessness, employment is a critical step in transforming their lives. A stable job helps people become self-sufficient; landlords are far more likely to accept people who have full-time jobs; and of course, earning a regular paycheck enables people to pay their rent.

Clearly, employment has powerful ripple effects in transforming lives. That’s why, at Father Joe’s Villages, we’ve been investing in job training for our neighbors in need for more than 15 years. When individuals have access to the skills they need to qualify for good jobs, they get a head start in reaching independence.

To fulfill our vision of a brighter San Diego, we provide job training programs specifically to support people in filling jobs that are in high demand. Our sector-based training programs focus on industries where employees are most likely to be hired now and in the future. In that effort, we help our clients gain the skills local employers need.

Deacon Jim Vargas

In 2002, we developed the Freddie Evarkiou Culinary Arts Program because we knew there was a need for well-trained, motivated and committed employees to fill vacancies in the restaurant and hospitality industries. This program has been so successful that in 2017, 92 percent of our culinary arts graduates got jobs in local restaurants, earning more than the minimum wage.

Today, bike repair is the fifth most sought-after skill trade across the country, according to 2018 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Demand is above average for these bike workers, who currently earn $13 per hour to start, or $1.50 above minimum wage.

That’s why our newest job training program provides hands-on practice in repairing bicycles. Two of our maintenance supervisors lead this four-week training course. During the course, students learn total bike repair skills like tire and tube repair, gear, brake, chain, wheel and frame repair.

Father Joe’s Villages’ also provides training for future security guards, baristas, property managers, landscape technicians, and more. From cooking to replacing tires, the ultimate goal of our job training programs is to help people secure a permanent place to call home. Since housing stability requires income, we are in the business of helping people get jobs.

That’s why I love to see the smiles on our students’ faces each time they master a new skill, whether it’s giving a bicycle a tune-up or mastering a crème brulee recipe. They know that each step they take brings them closer to a stable job, closer to self-sufficiency and closer to home.


Deacon Jim Vargas is president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages.

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