The Soboba Tribal Member Employment Development Training Program was launched in 2014 and has been successful in meeting its goal of preparing workers to follow their career choice. By investing in its people, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has been able to build a productive workforce that contributes to the social and economic livelihood of its Tribal community.
Gaining valuable experience in a field of interest was the basis behind the establishment of the training program. More than 20 Tribal Members have completed the annual program since it has begun. This year, four Tribal Members have been placed and are receiving on-the-job training at various departments at the Soboba Reservation and one is pending placement.
Emma Arres is a college student who was seeking real-life work experience. She has worked in nonpaid internships and various jobs on campus but nothing outside of school. She applied for the development program because she saw it as a great opportunity to learn more about Human Resources which is the department where she was assigned. However, she is also invited to join Soboba Tribal Environmental Department staff when they conduct field work.
“My majors are business administration and environmental science so I thought those would best fit my potential career choice and give me an idea where I want to work after college,” Arres said. “As of right now, I am being trained in the hiring process. I really enjoy what I am doing and who I am working with.”
While attending college and serving an internship, Arres is working about 12 hours a week at her HR position but expects to devote more hours to it once the spring semester ends.
Ajay Parcero has been working with the Soboba Parks and Recreation Department at its Sports Complex. He enjoys working at the baseball fields there as he grew up playing the game.
“I am an active person and I prefer working outside versus an office job,” he said. “Every day, I learn little tips and tricks from the older guys, so every day is something new with them even if it’s as small as turning off a certain drain.”
With an eventual career goal of becoming a firefighter, whether at the Soboba Fire Station or elsewhere, Parcero said he is learning valuable lessons he can take to any future job. With this being his first job, he hopes to learn the value of hard work and be able to teach others about his job and experience.
Loovi Herrera chose to participate in the program to get hands-on experience in tribal administration. She finds the program to be beneficial and is glad it was established. She is working at Soboba’s Higher Education/Sponsorship Department.
“It helps me build on various skills within my daily duties such as clerical work, event planning, oversight of social media accounts, weekly meetings with Tribal Members and sponsorship vendors and assisting other departments as needed,” Herrera said. “Working with (Higher Education Coordinator) Andrew Vallejos has helped me to realize the type of work ethic I hope to develop because his is impeccable.”
She is taking advantage of all opportunities this program offers and looks forward to helping give back to the community.
“Obtaining this work experience will benefit me in the future because I know that whatever career path I choose there will be an avenue to bring that knowledge and experience back to benefit the tribe,” Herrera said. “I am currently a part-time employee, but I do volunteer extra hours each week just to make sure everything is taken care of.”
Alex Vallejo stays busy working at Soboba’s Public Works Department which covers many areas of service to the reservation including facilities operations, infrastructure improvements, transportation, grounds maintenance, water services and emergency preparedness. Each staff member takes their role as a critical responsibility to the lifestyle of all those who live, work and visit the reservation.
“I want to expand my future career with a heavy equipment certification and with this position I will be able to learn from those who currently operate the equipment and hopefully get some time operating it myself,” Vallejo said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with the water department. I like what they do, and it has sparked my interest in becoming certified in what the Tribe needs me to do to make sure we have clean water.”
He looks forward to getting more practice on heavy equipment and learning best practices when using the different apparatus. He wants to learn more about the reservation and where important landmarks are such as water wells, tanks and emergency shut offs.
To support and monitor tribal employment, the Human Resources Department assists each placing department in identifying and addressing any needs and tracks the Tribal Member’s progress during their 12 months of training, working approximately 20 to 25 hours per week.
“We contact the department and the program participants monthly to monitor progress,” Employee Relations Manager Lynn Saenz said. “We assist the Tribal Member in learning as many new skills as possible throughout the duration of their assignment. Part of supporting the Tribal Member is working with each of them to identify lessons learned and helping them plan for their next steps after the assignment ends.”
An Individual Work Plan (IWP) is created for each program participant. It includes specific areas in which the department agrees to train them, special duties and tasks to be learned and what knowledge the Tribal Member should have attained once tasks or training have been provided.
“We oversee all elements of this program and serve as the point of communication,” Saenz said. “From initial evaluations to career aptitude assessments and helping Tribal Members build a professional resume, we are with them every step of the way. We also coordinate with the Higher Education Coordinator on any vocational or college-related courses and/or programs that will benefit the participants that are eligible for reimbursement under the Tribal Higher Education Program.”
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians