Bertha Vega and Marvin East focus on helping their communities understand the importance of financial planning.

Bertha Vega has a genuine interest in people. She’s motivated by helping others. She believes in planning and having a strategy.  Her natural ability for building relationships and what she learned about the sales process in the Virtanza Professional Sales Certification program helped her find a new career: She was selected to join New York Life’s associate training program.

Vega was part of an innovative pilot created by Virtanza, The University of the Pacific, and the San Joaquin County Workforce Development Board/Worknet. The Virtanza program prepares graduates to succeed in today’s technology-enabled sales environment. The objective is to place 70% of graduates in sales jobs with an average income of $65k within 120 days of graduation. Newly certified graduates go directly into a recruiting pipeline for major employers with whom Virtanza has relationships.

WorkNet helped Debbie Holzkamp, CEO and founder of Virtanza, connect with Patty Palacios, Senior Associate and Latino Market Manager at New York Life Stockton. New York Life is a 175-year-old company and a flagship in the insurance industry.

“Patty and I instantly saw that we focus on the same thing,” Holzkamp says. “We help people build more financially secure lives.”


Virtanza does this through sales education and steering people toward income-secure sales careers. New York Life agents do it by sharing the importance of financial knowledge to build stronger communities and enable individuals to have a financial legacy.

The company makes a significant investment in each person who participates in its paid associate training program. The selection process is rigorous: It includes three interviews and a 10-year background check. Vega impressed Palacios and her colleagues in her series of intensive interviews. “We want to find out if someone is going to be a perfect fit,” Palacios explains. “What motivates them? Do they have an entrepreneurial mindset? Do they believe in the value of what we do?”

From there, collaborative conversations help zero in on identifying a candidate’s market niche. According to Palacios, Latino communities and communities of color are especially in need of the products New York Life offers.  And Vega is excited about working within the Latino community. “A lot of people don’t have life insurance,” she says. “A lot don’t even know about it. I can go out in the community and tell how it helps their life and their families.”


Marvin East, another Virtanza/University of Pacific alumnus, was also recruited by New York Life. He had prior experience in the insurance industry and already held a state life and health insurance license. He’s studying to become a financial services agent for the company. “This opportunity is a big game-changer for me. I’m going to put everything I’ve got into it,” East says. The end result of this aggressive course of study, he says, will be equivalent to a master’s degree in finance.

Already a natural at building relationships, East credits his Virtanza coursework with polishing his presentation skills and personal branding. He’s already set his first appointment: With a business owner he struck up a conversation with when the man noticed he was reading a book about retirement planning.

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The Professional Sales Certification Program is the first sales training effort for Worknet. The agency offers job training in a range of other industries, including agribusiness, health care, building construction, and logistics.

The University of the Pacific is the oldest chartered university in California. As part of its push to be a leading 21st-century institution of higher education, the University is exploring innovative educational programming. One of these is non-degree workforce education like Professional Sales Certification.

 A variety of funding options for the Professional Sales Certification Program are available, through Worknet and by employers. The next sales course starts in January. For information about enrolling and how your tuition might be eligible for funding, contact Belinda Petate Chan, Employment Training Supervisor, San Joaquin County Worknet, at (209) 468-3584.