The State of California is making it easier for disadvantaged youth to pursue careers in firefighting and emergency paramedicine after it awarded millions to an organization that operates apprenticeship programs for aspiring first responders.

The California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee was chosen to receive a $4 million grant from the California Employment Development Department.

Cal-JAC runs pre-apprenticeship programs that recruit, train and, eventually, employ firefighters and paramedics. The new grant funding will help the organization expand those programs and will prioritize the inclusion of young adults who come from “disadvantaged or underrepresented” backgrounds, EDD said.

EDD Director Nancy Farias said firefighters and paramedics are an essential and irreplaceable part of communities across the state, adding that the grant money will help ensure that the workforces reflect the communities they serve.

“This funding will allow the development of apprenticeship programs to provide disadvantaged and underrepresented Californians with an opportunity to serve their communities in these key, critical industries,” Farias said.

Cal-JAC will expand its apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, adding five new programs that will serve between 270 and 500 participants. The goal of these programs is to increase the number of local individuals that pursue the first responder profession and make it easier for them to stay in their communities.

Participants in the paramedic programs will also be better positioned to pursue advanced health care careers, EDD says.

The grant funding for these programs is made available by California Gov. Gavin Newsom through the general fund. The EDD and the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency are tasked with administering the money.

California is actively working to grow and strengthen California’s health care workforce, which is currently facing an urgent shortage. Workforce for a Healthy California is coordinated by “an interagency group” that includes the California Health & Human Services Agency and the Labor & Workforce Development Agency and looks to identify ways to address the worker shortage.

Cal-JAC was selected to receive the grant following a “competitive application and evaluation process,” EDD says.

For more information about the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee, click here. To read more about the grant itself, click here.