What’s Really in Demand?Student Scapes — November 15, 2011
After years of being employed in customer service, Guadalupe “Lupe” Heldoorn returned to Cal State San Bernardino to get her education and to build a better life for her family. Having struggled through a devastating divorce while raising two young children on her own, Heldoorn decided to pursue her passion, which was to work in the field of chemistry.
It wasn’t long before she attended a CoyoteCareers workshop at CSUSB and was exposed to a panel of successful alumni in the chemistry field. During the workshop, Heldoorn met alumna Ramona Sanderson, a chemist working for the Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. Sanderson spoke of her journey from college to her dream job. Moved by Sanderson’s story, Heldoorn realized she had the power to bring her dreams to fruition as well.
At the workshop, Heldoorn talked with the speakers and soon began a correspondence with Sanderson that developed into a strong mentorship. “She reminds me of myself,” Sanderson said of Heldoorn, “trying to overcome the trials and tribulations of life and still continue to succeed.”
Heldoorn took the advice of the panelists. She contacted Bryant Fairley, CoyoteCareers’ service learning coordinator, and was quickly placed in an internship at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service doing chemistry-based research. Not only was she working in the chemistry field, but she also received a $1,000 stipend that provided much-needed support for her family. At the end of her 10-week experience, she continued to volunteer at the USDA and was eventually hired on as a part-time temporary employee.
But she was still battling to meet all her responsibilities on her own. “Being mom, employee and student meant that the time allotted for studying and sleeping was very limited. It was difficult to manage everything.”
Heldoorn sought ways to supplement her income and applied for public assistance from the county of San Bernardino. She was denied. County guidelines required applicants to be enrolled in an academic program from an “approved list” of majors that could lead to an “in-demand” occupation. Chemistry was not on the list. “I couldn’t believe the county didn’t recognize the demand for science professionals in the workforce.”
Allowed to appeal the county’s decision, Heldoorn sought the help of CoyoteCareers’ career information coordinator, Valentina Watson. Watson compiled information on expected job growth for occupations in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.
In STEM fields, growth is more than 20 percent the national average. And a study released by the Campaign for College Opportunity found that California has not been able to fill vacancies fast enough or adequately with the current educated workforce.
The shortage of qualified workers for STEM jobs could be so acute in the coming years, as the state recovers from the current recession, said the report, “that it may leave many jobs in the state unfilled and send some businesses to other states with a better supply of STEM graduates.” The report also stressed the crucial role Latinos and women will fill in the next generation of STEM labor and the need for higher educational institutions to train that emerging and “in-demand” workforce.
Convinced, San Bernardino County overturned its earlier decision without a hearing and granted Heldoorn’s request for assistance.
With financial help now in place, Heldoorn completed her last year at Cal State San Bernardino and continued to work part-time at the USDA. In June 2010, she graduated from CSUSB and was offered a full-time temporary position with the USDA.
Knowing her job was temporary, Heldoorn continued to look for permanent employment and was confident that her 20-month experience with the USDA would make her competitive in the job market. She was right. Within six months of graduation, Heldoorn received three job offers and finally accepted a position at James Hardie Research, a Fontana-based technology/manufacturing company, as a lab technician.
Heldoorn hopes to become a crime lab technician like her mentor and role model Ramona Sanderson. She’s on the waiting list to be hired with the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department’s crime lab. “I am so grateful for the CoyoteCareers program. I know I would never have had this much success without them first providing a way and door of opportunity for me. The program provided a way for my little family to overcome our circumstances and still achieve my dream.”