Category: Economy

Valley employers need mechanics; people need jobs. How this program serves both

BY KEN CARLSON

June 19, 2018 03:26 PM

Opportunity Stanislaus and its industry partners created the VOLT Institute for adults like Gustavo Amezcua of Oakdale.

Amezcua, 27, worked as an operator for Rizo Lopez Foods before the company gave him the chance to become a maintenance mechanic at the McClure Road cheese-making plant.

It’s a prime opportunity for Amezcua to earn a larger income for supporting his young family. On average, industrial maintenance mechanics earn $27.80 an hour in Stanislaus County.

Local industries struggle to find qualified maintenance mechanics and the demand for those blue-collar jobs is forecast to increase 15 percent over the next six years.

Amezcua is among 30 students in the first graduating class at the VOLT Institute, launched in October by Opportunity Stanislaus, industry partners like Pacific Southwest Container and E&J Gallo Winery, and the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

In 2016, SCOE offered space for the trade school in the former Modesto Bee building, at 13th and H streets, which was purchased by SCOE for expanding its services.

Dave White, chief executive officer of the business development agency, Opportunity Stanislaus, said there are 200 unfilled positions for maintenance mechanics in the county. With economic growth, those workers are in short supply as veteran mechanics retire and fewer high school students are trained for vocations.

As the VOLT Institute is further developed, it’s also expected to provide training in electrical systems and maintenance of automated production equipment. The program is supported by major employers in the county that face a critical need for skilled mechanics to maintain equipment and keep production lines running.

“The typical students in our program are in their 30s and looking for a better job,” White said. “There are a lot of people who have a job, but it’s not a good job, not a living wage and the chances of going to college has passed them by.”

Of the 40 students who enrolled in the VOLT Institute last fall, three quarters were in the 18 to 35 age group. Some were “incumbents” or employees of local companies that want them to upgrade their skills; others were young adults with lower-wage jobs, jobless people referred by county Workforce Development, and SCOE adult education graduates.

The group included a teacher looking for a career change.

Though a high school diploma is a minimum requirement for the VOLT institute, 52 percent of the students had attended some college and 9 percent were college graduates.

Deborah Rowe, director of career training programs for SCOE, said last week that 10 students dropped out for personal reasons or discovered the mechanics’ vocation was not for them. Twenty-six of the students set for a graduation ceremony June 27 are employed and the other four are actively seeking jobs, Rowe said.

Ron Losinski, master instructor at VOLT, said he’s well aware of the need for mechanics and other technical positions at manufacturing plants in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. When he was a maintenance manager for a plant in Lathrop, he said, it was impossible to hire qualified people off the streets.

He said plant closures were an opportunity to snatch up skilled workers and some employees were trained in an apprenticeship program at Modesto Junior College.

At the VOLT Institute, trainees first take a three-week course (12 hours a week) to learn the soft skills of working in the manufacturing environment, including ethics, communication, resolving conflicts, decision making and public speaking.

They advance to mechanical courses offered in the morning, afternoon or evening, where they learn the basics of machine tools, mechanical drives, pumps, pneumatic and hydraulic systems, metal working, torching techniques and mechanical circuitry.

The students can complete the vocational training and be job-ready in eight months.

Students in an afternoon class last week spent an hour on computers absorbing concepts, followed by an hour or two of hands-on learning at training equipment stations.

“Quite a few of our students have no mechanical experience,” Rowe said. “We try to team them up with incumbents who have mechanical skills.”

Cameron Jones and a Crystal Creamery employee were tested at one station on regulating the actuating speeds of a mechanical system. Jones has been working for a shoe business at Vintage Faire Mall and heard about the Volt Institute from a friend, he said.

“I like some of their shoes but don’t get enough hours to buy them,” said Jones, who is close to completing the training and is applying for jobs.

Dan Martin, director of facility services at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, said he’s hired two students from VOLT’s inaugural class to maintain motors and pumps in the hospital, wire lights and handle repairs.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the community because we have such a decline in individuals that have the proper skills for doing maintenance-type work,” said Martin, who’s on the advisory board for VOLT. “We will interview and interview many times just to get a few people who are qualified.”

Martin said the new hires will start at entry level pay for mechanical positions and soon jump to higher levels when they learn the health care side of the business.

As for VOLT’s minimum requirements, the new students must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma and complete the WorkKeys Assessment that measures skills for success in the workplace. Trainees must have the reading skills to understand manuals.

Tuition for the maintenance mechanic program is $2,500 per quarter or a total of $7,500. Companies sending employees through the training program may cover all or part of the cost. Self-pay students may be eligible for loans or scholarships and assistance may be available for students coming from adult education or the county workforce development program.

The VOLT Institute was launched with a $700,000 investment from private sources. Rowe said the funding that SCOE receives for the program requires six-month and 12-month reviews on how the graduates perform.

Rowe said the former Bee building is taking shape as a career center also offering training in construction, health care and other industries.

When she was principal of Enochs High School, Rowe said, 45 percent of the 550 students in a graduating class would attend college and not all of them would finish with a four-year degree. The military was always an option, but a large number of graduates were faced with earning a living wage without a college degree.

“I want to work for those who are not going to college and not going to the military,” Rowe said. “College is great but we are leaving a lot of folks behind.”

Those interested in training at the VOLT Institute may call 209-566-9102 or send an email to info@voltinstitute.com. For more information on programs, visit http://opportunitystanislaus.com/VOLTInstitute.

http://www.modbee.com/news/business/employment-news/article213140454.html

New company launches to incubate Central Valley businesses

The Central Valley is home to thousands of businesses and now one organization wants to showcase entrepreneurs on a bigger platform.

“Fresno is a great place, not only are we a great place to raise a family, but we’re a great place to start a business and there’s profit to be made here, ” said Jennifer Lopez with Valley Innovators.

Lopez sees a major discrepancy in the way venture capitalist are investing in businesses.

“About 60-percent of VC (venture capitalist) funding goes to California companies, less than one-percent of that comes to the Valley,” Lopez said.

A lot of that has to do with marketing or perception. So Lopez and others funded Valley Innovators– a company that helps the business learn, network and market themselves and eventually attract big investors.

Valley Innovators hopes to serve businesses ranging from taco trucks to technology. They said the Valley is becoming home to a diverse amount of companies and owners.

“It means having more success stories come out of their organization, it means possibly having to expand their organization and contributing to the marketing of Fresno and the Valley as a whole, as a great place for innovation. A place for talent and a place for making things happen,” Lopez said.

The passion runs deep for this Valley native and former Bay Area resident.

“There’s talent here, there are people that are ambitious and want to give back and flex their entrepreneurial muscles,” Lopez said.

Valley innovators launches Tuesday night at the Tower Theater. Over the next few months, they’ll host educational opportunities and networking for businesses and one day a pitch contest in the spring. They believe the next great idea could be incubated in the Valley.

http://abc30.com/business/new-company-launches-to-incubate-businesses/3565352/

Fresno State expands business school

 

Central Valley Business Times

June 1, 2018

  • To break ground on Ruiz Foods Executive Classrooms
  • “Vastly improves its ability to offer transformative educational experiences”

The Craig School of Business at Fresno State will host a public groundbreaking for its Ruiz Foods Executive Classrooms that will soon be constructed with stadium seating and the latest technology.

The celebration will be held at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 7, on the north lawn in front of Duncan Patio. The Ruiz Foods Executive Classrooms are the result of a $1 million pledge made in May 2017 by Ruiz Food Products Inc., a Dinuba-based food manufacturing company.

The gift will help finance construction of an annex to the existing University Business Center and house two new executive classrooms with innovative education technology. “With two new executive-style classrooms, the Craig School of Business vastly improves its ability to offer transformative educational experiences,” says Robert Harper, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

“While the classrooms will be used for our executive MBA program and accelerated bachelor’s program, they will also serve as vital spaces for other students within the university as well.”

The Ruiz family has a history of supporting business education at Fresno State. Entrepreneur Fred Ruiz is a founder of the Institute for Family Business, a community resource that promotes family businesses as a catalyst for economic growth. Kim Ruiz Beck, chairman of Ruiz Foods, is an alumna of the Craig School and serves on the Foundation Board of Governors for the California State University, Fresno Foundation. In 2017, she earned the Top Dog Distinguished Alumna Award from the Fresno State Alumni Association.

The classrooms will be designed to replicate what executives would expect, allowing for faculty to fully utilize technology in presentations to improve learning outcomes for undergraduate, MBA and executive MBA students. The added space will also serve the community. When not in use for academic purposes, the space will be available for rental as part of the slate of services provided by the University Business Center. Mr. Harper says the anticipated completion date for the project is summer 2019.

Artist lofts project to begin construction in Stockton

The MediCo Dental building in Downtown Stockton is the site for the new Medici Artist Lofts.

A groundbreaking for a new artist-inspired project will be held May 31 in Stockton.

The Medici Artist Lofts, a mixed-income apartment building with commercial space, will break-ground this week at was once the MediCo Dental building.

“We are excited to expand on the success of our Cal Weber 40 project, providing much needed housing in San Joaquin County—specifically to those who want to live in Downtown Stockton,” said Chris Flaherty, chairman and CEO of 3 Leaf Holdings, a partner in the project along with the Housing Authority of the County of San Joaquin and DFA Development.

The project, expected to be completed by fall of 2019, is geared toward artists, offering space for receptions, galleries and 34 residential units.

“The Housing Authority is excited to be a part of the revitalization of Downtown Stockton,” said Peter Ragsdale, executive director of the Housing Authority. “Medici Artist Lofts will be transformative in its adaptive, mixed-use rehabilitation of the iconic Medical/Dental Building. This project will change the conversation around what is possible when partnerships are struck to help solve the affordable housing crisis in California.”

Six of the units will be offered at market rate, and 28 will offered at “affordable rent subject to income limitations,” according to the Housing Authority.

Similar projects in cities like Fresno have found success in bringing more residents to dwell in downtown regions undergoing revitalization efforts.

The groundbreaking will take place at 7:30 a.m. on May 31 in the lobby of the MediCo Dental building. Business leaders and community members are encouraged to attend the event.

https://cvbj.biz/2018/05/29/artist-lofts-project-to-begin-construction-in-stockton/

Fresno’s Fulton Street named one of America’s top main streets

Fulton Street was named one of 10 semifinalists on Monday.

From art to architecture you will find a little something different along Fresno’s Fulton Street.

The longtime pedestrian mall re-opened to vehicular traffic last October. On Monday the street was recognized in America’s main street contest.

“As an organization, we feel awesome to be in this running because it really is prime time for Fulton Street and Fulton District with the reopening of Fulton street six or seven months ago,” said Chilingerian.

The goal of the national contest is to help promote the importance and strong economic benefits of main streets and the small businesses that help them thrive

Fulton Street was named one of 10 semifinalists on Monday.

There are currently 18 vacant storefronts on Fulton.

Many have sat empty for years and are in need of renovation to be brought up to code.

Officials hope this type of national attention will catch the eye of potential business owners.

“We’re already seeing some businesses come in and open but something like this would bring even more foot traffic and even more potential businesses so I think national attention like this is really exciting for us,” said Jenna Chilingerian.

The winning main street will receive $25,000 in cash and prizes to help revitalize their street.

“We’re always looking for opportunities for more faade improvements tenant improvements like so those are the things we’re looking at right now,” said Chilingerian.

The winner will be announced June 4.

http://abc30.com/community-events/fresnos-fulton-street-named-one-of-americas-top-main-streets-/3532558/

Businesses Can Help California Schools Train Students for ‘New Collar’ Jobs

 

 

By Jennifer Ryan Crozier and Loren Kaye

Jennifer Ryan Crozier is president of the IBM Foundation. Loren Kaye is president of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education, a think tank affiliated with CalChamber.

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

The key to California’s long-term economic growth can be found in the classroom.

Job growth in California has been robust since the last recession. But recently that growth has slowed because of the lack of employable workers. The projected shortage of skilled workers in the state through 2030 is more than a million graduates with bachelor’s degrees as well as hundreds of thousands of workers with two-year associate’s degrees and certificates. Only 39 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the “middle-skill” level, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.

Filling that talent pipeline will be a challenge unless we can better prepare students for 21st century jobs.

A promising public-private partnership is taking shape in the Legislature that focuses on high school and college completion, along with meaningful workplace experiences. State Sen. Anthony Portantino is sponsoring legislation to create the California State Pathways in Technology. If successful, this legislation would provide state funding for a proven educational program already delivering results in 90 schools in seven states.

P-Tech schools would address the educational achievement challenge in California through an innovative model for grades nine through 14 that encompasses high school, college and industry. In addition to their high school diplomas, P-Tech students earn a two-year associates degree at no cost and develop the workplace skills necessary for employment in the 21st century “new collar” workforce.

This is critical, given that the U.S. economy will create 16 million “new collar” jobs by 2024, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. These positions require some post-secondary education and mid-level technology skills, though not necessarily a four-year college degree. Among all states, California has experienced some of the largest increases in the number of good, well-paying jobs that don’t require four-year degrees.

According to the just-released report card from the National Center for Education Statistics, the math skills of California’s eighth-grade students lag those in 33 other states, and just 10 to 15 percent of our African American and Latino students are proficient in math, significantly trailing their white and Asian American peers.

How can we close these widening gaps that perpetuate cycles of poverty and weaken economic competitiveness?

A number of California schools have cracked the code to improving high school completion by integrating rigorous academics, career-technical education classes and work-based learning opportunities. This “linked learning” approach has successfully delivered career- and college-ready graduates, in part by incorporating local businesses to support education programs.

But that’s not all.

After completing the first full six years of the model last spring, the inaugural cohort of students at P-Tech in Brooklyn, N.Y., had a graduation rate four times the national community college graduation rate and five times the rate for low-income students. Many of these graduates have gone on to complete their bachelor’s degrees, while others have joined the new-collar workforce at IBM, which designed — and continues to steward — the model.

The P-Tech network now includes schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island and Texas, with the number of schools expected to reach more than 120 by the fall. There are now more than 450 companies involved, providing mentoring, site visits, paid internships and “first in line” job interviews upon graduation — a powerful motivator for students.

Importantly, whether urban, suburban or rural, P-Tech schools work within existing state budgets and offer open admissions without pretesting. P-Tech schools don’t require or receive special resources. All partnerships benefit from IBM’s “playbook,” which helps ensure each school has the information to implement the model successfully.

The goal is to get students to a degree that has weight in the 21st century economy. Providing the P-Tech pathway, along with programs such as Linked Learning, will offer California’s students a new, debt-free pathway to ensuring their career success, and our state’s long-term economic growth.

California announces ‘record number’ of active apprentices

Amgen tour launches from Stockton

The Stockton Arena was abuzz with activity on May 17, as cycling enthusiasts and local businesses alike gathered to attend the start of stage 5 of the 2018 Amgen Tour of California, a 109.7-mile journey from Stockton to Elk Grove.

The course is relatively flat with only one major change of elevation, allowing the sprinters among the contestants to shine. “This is a tailor-made sprint stage for the sprinters, and they have been raring to go,” noted announcer Brian Stover.

The Amgen Tour of California is an annual business boon to host cities throughout the Central Valley. Tourism revenue is bolstered by cycling fans following the tour throughout the state. In addition, each stop along the way is an opportunity for local businesses to have booths at the event. This is the second time Stockton has hosted the start of the event, the last time being in 2007.  Modesto and Lodi have also been frequented by the Amgen Tour of California in recent years.

Nonprofit booths made a strong showing at this year’s Stockton start to stage 5.

“One of the things I’ve encouraged the staff to do is to be involved in events like this, bring out some of the food we have … so they can see we’re actually providing healthy, nutritious, good food to those who really need it,” said Rick Brewer, CEO of the Emergency Food Bank. “Sometimes people will come by and throw a dollar in our [donation] box too, so we’ll get a couple donations.”

Amgen tour launches from Stockton

Fresno annexes additional land west of highway 99

The city of Fresno continues to grow west.

The city council today approved annexing a new housing tract west of Highway 99.

Thie nearly 160-acre parcel is expected to be the site of more than two hundred homes. The site is bordered by Shaw, Gettysburg, Bryan, and Hayes.

The project was approved more than ten years ago, but the recession delayed development. The developer, Dennis Gaab is now ready and wants the county land annexed into the city. He told the council, “Insofar as we are aware, there’s no opposition to the annexation.”

There is a building boom going on west of Highway 99. The area is becoming is becoming more desirable, but one big problem is getting here.

“It’s awful, it’s awful.” That’s how longtime area resident Sharon Brown describes the traffic getting across the highway on Shaw or Ashlan. “In the morning, going over you have to time it just right, or it might take ten times just to get through the light.”

Getting across Highway 99 is a problem City Councilmember Steve Brandau is aware of. He told his fellow council members, “At some point, our city is going to have to get very serious about Shaw and 99 and Ashlan and 99.”

Putting in overpasses will cost tens of millions of dollars, and the city is working with Caltrans, trying to figure out where to get the money. Councilmember Paul Caprioglio said Fresno appeared to be putting “the cart before the horse” in dealing with traffic, police and fire protection.

City Manager Wilma Quan Shecter said those issues were being discussed.

City staff has given the project the green light, and despite expressing concerns, the city councilmembers approved the annexation. Council President Esmerelda Soria said, “This is a great housing project because it’s going to bring more housing units to our community.”

The developer says the 216 homes will have average prices of around $400,000.

California’s economy now globe’s 5th largest

California was in a bragging mode last week because the state’s economy has climbed in global rankings to 5th place behind only the United States as whole, China, Japan and Germany.

It’s a remarkable factoid, certainly, that one American state generated so much economic production – $2.7 trillion last year – that it could rank among global leaders.

It’s even more impressive that California produces so much even though in terms of population, its 40 million residents would be considered a fairly small country, about the size of Iraq.

California moved into 5th place by slipping past Great Britain, which has 63.5 million people, after previously topping France (65 million) and Italy (61 million).

Even more dramatically, California outproduced Russia (142.5 million) and even India, which has 32 times as many people (1.3 billion).

Okay, so it is something about which Californians should feel proud. It might even fuel those semi-serious efforts to separate California from the rest of the nation and restore the nationhood it briefly had in the 19th century.

However, it’s just as important to keep the new economic rankings in perspective, to wit:

—We’ve been there before. As the state Department of Finance points out, we were 5th in 2002, only to decline as the Great Recession struck a few years later, and we were in 10th place as recently as 2012.

—While the state’s economic output increased by 3 percent in 2017, the economies of five other states grew faster, topped by Washington at 4.4 percent, according to a new report by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Others with larger increases than California were Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

—The BEA report also underscored the narrowness of California’s economic growth of late. The big drivers, the agency reported, were the high-technology and health care sectors.

—Health care growth has been fueled by huge injections of federal Obamacare funds, primarily for expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s medical program for the poor, to about 14 million Californians, more than a third of the state’s population. Obamacare is, however, under assault in Washington and its future is cloudy.

—California’s technology industry is concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area and its explosive growth has come with high levels of transportation congestion and housing shortages and costs that threaten its future.

—The high cost of housing, born of an acute shortfall in new construction, is the primary reason why California, for all of its economic power, has the nation’s highest rate of poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “supplemental” poverty calculation that takes living costs into account.

—The Public Policy Institute of California, expanding on the Census Bureau methodology, says that nearly 40 percent of Californians are living in poverty or near-poverty, with the highest rates in Los Angeles County, home to a quarter of the state’s population.

—Finally, California is, as Gov. Jerry Brown continues to warn, overdue for an economic downturn. It’s the economic version of Newton’s Law. What goes up must inevitably come down, as we have seen several times in the recent past.

California’s economy now globe’s 5th largest