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Kristi Flowers                         Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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Thursday, March 7, 2013         
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Photo of Sharon Williams
         Courtesy of JobTrain
Sharon Williams

Sharon Williams, JobTrain’s executive director since 1979, is stepping down from her position this year. Her 30-year tenure with the agency seems remarkable given the high turnover rate that many companies experience.
Williams started with JobTrain as a GED teacher in 1973.  She became the organization’s director of development in 1978, and in 1979, she became the executive director of the organization, which was then known as OIC West or OICW.   

When OICW was founded in 1965, it was modeled on the first OIC Job Training Center in Philadelphia, PA. and it was housed at 1100 O’Brien Drive in Menlo Park. In 1994, the organization moved to its current location at 1200 O’Brien and in October 2007, the agency’s named was changed to JobTrain.

Since its inception, the organization has focused on assisting men and women avoid incarceration, welfare and unemployment by preparing them to find gainful employment in a competitive job market.

Williams and her team are credited with having transformed “a beleaguered nonprofit  [that was OICW] into the premier job training and placement institution," which JobTrain became. 

Her contributions have been so outstanding that the City of East Palo Alto made a proclamation in her honor.

In fact, some of contributions for which she has been cited include the acquisition and renovation of JobTrain’s current O’Brien Street faciity; the accreditation  of the agency by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC); its cutting edge training programs; and JobTrain's diverse funding base that gets continued support from well known Silicon Valley corporations.

In explaining some of the agency’s philosophy behind its training programs, Williams said, "We believe in the potential of every person who comes to us and that helps them believe in themselves. Once they know they can succeed, the challenge is nearly won."

According to the organization’s own statistics, at least 85% of those, who enroll in JobTrain’s classes, complete their training; 75% of class graduates are placed in jobs, and 12 months after placement, 84% are still working.

Williams has won many awards over the years for her achievements and contributions to the community. She has been honored with Article 1.docxthe Career Action Center’s women of Vision Award, the Palo Alto Chamber’s Athena Award, induction into the San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame, and the Silicon Valley Women of Influence Award.  She also currently serves on the boards of Center for Excellence in Nonprofits, and the East Palo Alto Digital Village.

A reception and dinner will be held at the Four Seasons Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto on March 9 to celebrate William's leadership and to raise funds for her "Life Skills" legacy to JobTrain.   For information about the dinner, contact Susan Boiko at 650-330-6521 or sboiko@jobtrainworks.org.  


Kristi Flowers is a guest writer for EPA Today. All questions can be forwarded to epatoday@epatoday.org.