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Bakersfield looks to Bitwise for $750,000 job-training contract

Bakersfield officials hope to accomplish dual goals — train local tech workers and help people who lost income during the pandemic — with a contract now under negotiation with Fresno-based software hub Bitwise Industries.

On Wednesday the City Council voted 6-0, with Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera absent, to authorize City Manager Christian Clegg to finalize an agreement not to exceed $750,000 exposing 400 career prospects to the tech industry, training 100 of them and then finding 50 of them paid apprenticeships.

Bitwise has provided similar services elsewhere in the state using its Geekwise Academy model, which was pioneered in Fresno. The company is in the process of expanding to downtown Bakersfield, where it hopes to begin operation after the pandemic subsides; that project predates the city contract talks.

A job-training agreement isn't expected to be finalized for about two weeks and some details were not available, such as how the training will be provided and who will qualify for participation. Bitwise declined to comment on the contract discussions.

Timing is crucial from the city's perspective. It received $33.5 million from the state as part of the $2 trillion federal CARES Act. From the city's allocation, $1.5 million has been set aside for public-private partnerships. Most of that money needs to be spent by the end of this year.

City staff reported looking at different options for delivering job training within that time period. Bitwise was identified as the best option for meeting the Dec. 31 deadline, in part because the city deemed its tech program "shovel-ready."

"Bitwise has a successful history in implementing these types of programs throughout the state and has engaged over 4,000 individuals as part of its career programs," Assistant City Manager Chris Huot said by email.

Huot noted the program will only be open to individuals hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its primary objective, he stated, is for students to gain web and app development skills, experience in Salesforce software or online marketing knowledge sufficient to qualify for an entry-level job.

He said he was hopeful the program would begin immediately after the city executes a contract.

"The city looks forward to continue to support our local businesses and the regional economy through investments like this program," Huot wrote.

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