Written by The Business Journal Staff
Fresno area Career Technical Education (CTE) students will have the unique opportunity to tour a handful of local manufacturing companies Tuesday as part of Fresno County’s second annual Manufacturing Day.
The event is one of several initiatives spearheaded by members of the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance (SJVMA), a group intent on bridging the gap between education and industry by enhancing local CTE programs to better prepare young adults for careers in manufacturing.
Lori Morton, the business engagement coordinator for the Fresno County Office of Education, said FCOE’s partnership with local manufacturing companies has evolved with the help of the alliance and that allowed them to bring Manufacturing Day, a nationwide effort of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), to Fresno.
“It’s a national day and we’re just fortunate to have manufacturers here locally who wanted to get it going in Fresno,” Morton said.
Five manufacturers gave tours and 80 students participated in last year’s inaugural event. This year, Morton said the event has grown immensely, with 12 manufacturers giving tours and 120 students participating. The students, she said, are those interested in manufacturing careers, mostly those enrolled in CTE courses at high schools throughout Fresno County. The manufacturers giving tours this year are Pepsi, Hydratech, Betts Co., Borga, Sunrise Medical, GAP, CENCAL CNC, Scelzi Enterprises Inc., Grundfos, Anlin, Dumont Printing and Strategic Mechanical Inc.
Originally, the SJVMA was just one facet of the Fresno State Office of Community and Economic Development’s (OCED) San Joaquin Valley Regional Industry Clusters Initiative. As of April 1, the alliance stood on its own.
Business Development Director Sam Geil said the alliance currently includes 100 manufacturing companies and 160-175 members from within those companies. There are also 225 non-manufacturing members.
“The purpose of the alliance is to enhance and attract companies, mainly manufacturers, so they want to come here. But to do that we have to have the programs and training in order for them to see that moving here would be a good thing to do, and it’s a good thing for the ones that are here already,” Geil said.
The SJVMA serves eight counties, from Kern to San Joaquin, but is currently focusing on Fresno and Madera counties. Geil said members get involved by joining various CTE committees and boards throughout the area. Geil sits on the CART (Center for Advanced Research and Technology) board and is involved in CART’s manufacturing program. He also serves on the Fresno Unified CTE Advisory Committee and its manufacturing subcommittee, and the Clovis Unified CTE Advisory Committee for environmental and energy.
“We’re involved in the various CTE programs in Fresno Unified, Clovis Unified, Central Unified and Madera Unified, and we want to get involved in all of them because they are all important and they need industry’s input to ensure they are doing it right,” Geil said.
In addition to its involvement with CTE and Manufacturing Day, SJVMA also supports the Dream It, Do It program, an initiative with the Manufacturing Institute, which promotes careers in manufacturing to the next generation. SJVMA also hosts an annual manufacturing summit to showcase excellence in manufacturing. SJVMA members are also involved internships, job shadowing and apprenticeship programs.
SJVMA chairperson and champion Mike Betts, the CEO of Betts Company, said the Valley is on the precipice of some exciting developments in CTE manufacturing programs.
Reedley College, Betts said, has already established an excellent aeronautics mechanic program, but now the community college is “on the two-yard line,” gearing up to introduce an aeronautics pilot program.
“We [the alliance] identified things that were working well and areas that were missing, and in our research realized how amazing the aero mechanic program at Reedley College is, but we also wondered why there was no aero pilot program. So we approached Mazzei Flying Services, which does ground-to-wheels, up-in-the-air training, and we talked to them about starting a program in Reedley,” Betts said. “We learned that 95 percent of Mazzei’s clientele are from Asia. There is nothing wrong with that, but we wondered why and how we can train those in our own community. We realized it is expensive to become a pilot — $80,000 for a two-year program, but we wanted to put together a public education program somehow.
“A friend suggested working with the VA, because they provide up to $80,000 through the GI bill for an honorably discharged veteran to become a pilot. This VA component is a big deal because there are so many vets in the Central Valley. It got the college excited because now they can offer a pilot program knowing not all students will have to be part of a scholarship program.”
The new aeronautics program should receive final approval in the next few weeks, Betts said. Even more exciting, the program will be the first in the United States to incorporate new electric airplanes made for training.
SJVMA has also worked with Reedley College and Duncan Polytech High School to streamline the schools’ Heavy Duty Truck programs so high school students earn credits that can be transferred to Reedley College. The alliance is also working to ensure both programs meet accreditation standards and that students earn certifications as well as degrees of completion.
These are just two CTE areas that have been enhanced due to SJVMA’s involvement. Betts said SJVMA plans to bolster other area CTE programs as well.
“We want to build the best, robust, highest-performing CTE ecosystem in the country, with curriculum centered around manufacturing that is advanced, relevant and leads high school and community college students to thriving careers in the industry,” Betts said.