EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS AIM TO EXPAND MANUFACTURING WORKFORCE
In recent years higher-education institutions in Fresno have attempted to evolve and expand to meet the demands of the Central Valley manufacturing industry. According to the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance, the industry employs more than 100,000 residents of the Central Valley and accounts for $15 billion of the area’s gross domestic product.
Over the last decade, educational programs have made great strides to partner with the industry to create the kind of employees they need, said Mike Betts, CEO of the Betts Company in Fresno. “The level of collaboration, cooperation and trusting relationships that have been built in this community over the last 5-10 years is off the charts,” Betts said. “It keeps building on itself to where we are doing remarkable things, it’s a community effort.”
One significant advance was the integration of dual credits for high school manufacturing programs at Fresno City College, said Robert Pimentel, FCC vice president of Educational Services and Institutional Effectiveness. Before late 2015, FCC couldn’t offer dual enrollment to high school students because California state law required any course the college offered must be open to the public. High schools didn’t want their campus to be open to any member of the public in order to offer the courses, Pimentel said.
In October 2015 Assembly Bill 288 changed those rules, and instead of requiring students to spend a semester testing out of courses they took in high school, FCC could offer their courses with college credit for the high school students exclusively. This change allows students to work towards an associates degree in high school and offers students a chance to take college courses for free, Pimentel said. The change also allowed companies to partner more closely in ensuring workers with the skills they need are able to access the right education from a young age, Betts said. “We try to offer a pathway between high school and university, or into the industry,” Pimentel said. “We are using that pathway to close equity gaps for students.”