The Workforce Alliance of the North Bay, Wells Fargo and PG&E announced the first round of Innovation Fund grantees. Selected through a competitive application and review process, the grantees are the Marin County Office of Education, the Marin Economic Forum, Napa Health and Human Services, the Napa Hospitality Industry Partnership, the Marin Small Business Development Center, and the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center. Projects funded by the grants include: virtual/augmented reality training for businesses and students at the Marinovation Learning Center; support for businesses and individuals affected by the October 2017 wildfires; and efforts to outreach to and engage businesses to further the goals of economic and workforce development.

Applicants to the Innovation Fund identified a challenge or gap that if successfully addressed, would significantly “move the needle” on employment and/or business productivity. Projects had to address a challenge that the workforce system is facing in increasing opportunity, effectiveness, and/or scale in addressing the training, placement, or advancement of career seekers and/or the advancement of key industry sectors in terms of business expansion or layoff aversion.

“We are very pleased that this private/public partnership is allowing us to bring resources to the North Bay and fund projects which will enhance the economic vitality of our region.” said Damon Connolly, Chair of the Workforce Alliance of the North Bay Governing Board and Marin County Supervisor. A total of $207,300 in Innovation Fund grants will support the grantees’ efforts. The awards allow the projects to utilize an additional $172,830 in resources, for a total investment of $380,130.

Innovation Fund recipient Mary Jane Burke, the Superintendent of the Marin County Office of Education added, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to offer this innovative program to both high school students and community members who are seeking to improve their professional skills. As we focus on our workforce development program in schools, this program will provide people with the most current technical skills in a variety of fields from building 3D models in virtual reality to using 360-degree video. Students will come away with skills that will launch them into future careers.”

“Wells Fargo invested in the Innovation Fund at its inception because supporting small businesses and developing our workforce will help build stronger communities,” said Thomas Sands, Wells Fargo’s region bank president for Northern California.