New start, new career: A Sonoma County collaboration helps a justice-involved client land a health care job

Health care workers in a corridor
Workforce boards and their partners can find skilled and essential workers for in-demand industries like health care.

by Gail Allyn Short

In her old job, Amelia Morales-Contreras managed a local parking garage. She worked hard to reach the leadership ranks in the company, says the Santa Rosa resident.

Then in early 2020, her employer closed the facility with promises to reopen soon.

But as weeks turned into months during the pandemic, she needed to start job hunting.

The problem? She had a record, which included a three-month stint in prison. The parking company had given her a chance. Would a new company do the same?

“I went to several interviews, and I never got called back because of my background,” says Morales-Contreras, 39. “That’s when I reached out to Job Link.”

“We offer coaching assistance. We help them create and update resumes. We help with job searches and share job leads. We also conduct mock interviews in preparation for job interviews.”

Domenica Plancarte, employment and training counselor, sonoma county job link

Sonoma County Job Link, a partner of the America’s Job Center of California network, is a one-stop center for workforce development services, offering counseling and resources for job seekers. That includes workshops and listings for jobs, education, training and financial aid.

While visiting the Job Link center, she met employment and training counselor Domenica Plancarte.

“We assist individuals who are looking for employment,” Plancarte says. “We offer coaching assistance. We help them create and update resumes. We help with job searches and share job leads. We also conduct mock interviews in preparation for job interviews.”

Job Link even helps clients to access on-the-job training opportunities so they can earn while they learn, she says.

“She went above and beyond for me,” Morales-Contreras says of Plancarte. “She helped me with my resume, and taught me what to say and what not to say during interviews and what to wear and every detail like that.”

Then Plancarte contacted an agency partner, the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and its program manager, Patricia Andrews, who works directly with local employers.

“I told her about Amelia and that she was interested in some type of office position and Patty connected her with an employer in the health care industry,” Plancarte says.

Plancarte says Andrews and other colleagues strive to get justice-involved clients into fields where they will be successful, including high-demand fields such as construction and health care.

Successfully getting a health care job, however, can depend on an applicant’s background, she says.

But with help from Andrews, who accompanied her on her job interviews, Morales-Contreras—who once worked as a certified nursing assistant—landed a position with a local dental office.

At work, she sanitizes equipment and treatment rooms, restocks supplies and is training to work in the front office, she says.

“I don’t think I could have done it without Domenica or Ms. Andrews,” she says. “I appreciate everything they did for me, and feel blessed to be in the position I’m in now.”

About North Bay Employment Connection 28 Articles
North Bay Employment Connection is a collaborative of the Solano & Sonoma County Workforce Development Boards, and newly formed joint powers authority Workforce Alliance of the North Bay (Napa-Lake, Marin & Mendocino counties). As a collaborative, NBEC and its core partners are dedicated to supporting businesses in key North Bay industry sectors, and making smart investments for the region’s workforce systems. Over $12 million has been secured in competitive state and federal grants to enhance NBEC’s capacity to serve the employer and job-seeker communities.