Story by Kris Lovekin and photos by Kurt Miller / Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium

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Blythe — March 2019. It was in Los Angeles, while he was attached to metal beams on a high rise under construction, that Brian Wilson realized he was not really happy as an ironworker. “When you are 42 stories up it has a way of focusing the mind,” he said.

The job is among the most dangerous and demanding. Plus, Wilson, 45, was tired of living in hotels as he worked on each far-flung project. He checked out his retirement account and it was shrinking rather than growing. …


By Kris Lovekin / Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium

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Nancy Soto, who is studying cosmetology at Riverside City College, wants to open a new kind of salon for children with special needs. / Photo by Kurt Miller

Riverside — August 2018. The hair salon of her dreams has silent shears, neutral smells and a calm and patient staff, so that children with autism might feel safe during a haircut.

“My sister works with children who have autism, and they should have a salon too,” said 21-year-old Nancy Soto, who is studying cosmetology at Riverside City College in a room loud with the buzzing of clippers and the whooshing motors of handheld hair dryers.

Soto started out majoring in microbiology, but switched to cosmetology as a way of getting into the workforce more quickly. She is among 6,500 students at RCC taking classes through the Career and Technical Education program, the kinds of programs that prepare students for specific technical jobs. …


By Kris Lovekin / Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium

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Moreno Valley College Instructor, Kasey Nguyen helps a student. Photo by Kurt Miller.

Moreno Valley — August 2018. Kasey Nguyen’s skill set is in high demand. She can explain the difference between a Raspberry Pi and a Beaglebone Black, both small computer operating systems that provide extra computer programming power at a low price. And she can, and does, teach people creative ways to use them.

An early adopter of computers, starting with a keyboarding class in high school on an Apple computer, she is a 40-year-old with a Ph.D. in cybersecurity, as well as experience in the computer industry.

She is also getting a lot of job satisfaction from teaching in the Computer Information Systems program at Moreno Valley College. “I love a challenge,” she said. …

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