VOLT Institute helps boost Valley economy
BY SABRA STAFFORD
A key factor for any company looking to open up or relocate to a specific region is the available workforce and whether or not they will have the needed skill sets. VOLT Institute is making great strides to make sure the Central Valley has the desired workforce and in turn is helping grow the area’s economic impact.
The VOLT Institute, based in downtown Modesto, was created in 2016 with the goal of giving individuals the training and knowledge needed to enter the workforce with skills that are in high-demand from a variety of companies. VOLT, which stands for Valley Occupational Learning and Technology, functions as a partnership with Opportunity Stanislaus and the Stanislaus County Office of Education.
“I think antidotally, we’ve all known there is a skills gap issue in the region,” said Opportunity Stanislaus Chief Business Services Officer Tyler Richardson. “As the economy started to improve and companies were growing, they realized they didn’t have the technical expertise needed in order to sustain their growth. In 2016, the private sector leaders in our community came together and said collectively, ‘we are having issues filling some very key roles in our manufacturing facilities.’ That set us on this journey.”
The curriculum begins with foundational skills on how to be an employee—everything businesses reported lacking in current applicants from safety to efficiency to professionalism and then students get to learn on equipment that mirrors that in factories locally enabling them to emerge ready to work. The initial course offerings are for industrial maintenance mechanic, a Supervisor Development Academy, and career accelerator programs. Soon, VOLT Institute will be adding a programmable logic controller training course to the curriculum. Tuition runs around $7,500.
“These are jobs that are in demand, good wage, usually full-time and year-round and something you can build a career on and work locally,” Richardson said.
The work VOLT Institute is doing is supported by some of the area’s major employers, including E&J Gallo, Bronco Winery, Stanislaus Food Products, Foster Farms, Delicato, and Sierra Pacific Industries.
“Because we work closely with industries, we’re constantly getting feedback on how we are doing and can make changes immediately if we need to,” said Kevin Fox, the director of marketing and student engagement at VOLT Institute.
“VOLT has become a regional asset and companies and manufacturers throughout the greater northern San Joaquin Valley are tuning in and wanting to get involved,” Richardson said.
Recently, VOLT Institute was named one of the top 3 programs in the Partnerships for Industry and Education award contest this year and was recognized at the 2019 California Economic Summit.
“Through our partnership, we now have regional programs that offer specific, technical training currently in high demand,” said Scott Kuykendall, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools. “By delivering skilled training, VOLT is simultaneously meeting the needs of job seekers and industry. We are excited to be recognized at the California Economic Summit and also to share the work we are doing with other regions throughout the state.”
“We are honored to receive this award,” said David White, Chief Executive Officer Opportunity Stanislaus. “VOLT Institute has been a great collaboration by partners who are devoted to improving vocational education in our region. The greatest result of our program is the positive impact it’s having on families, making it possible for more people to have a great job and better quality of life.”
VOLT Institute also was awarded a grant of nearly $1 million from the Economic Development Administration, a bureau within the United States Department of Commerce. The funding, allocated to VOLT Institute and Modesto Junior College, will be used for the purchase of equipment on par with machines used in industrial settings at local employers.
“The students are gaining knowledge and training that they can use out in the real world and are relative now and for the future,” Fox said.
The grant required match funding, a hurdle overcome by Assemblymember Adam C. Gray’s work to get a million dollars for VOLT Institute and MJC allocated in the 2018-19 California State Budget.
“We have a significant shortage of workers with the real skills necessary to get these good-paying jobs,” Gray said. “We are encouraged that VOLT and MJC were able to use this state money to assemble a total of $2 million from federal and state grants to train an additional 200 students annually by expanding its certified industrial maintenance program and the industrial electronics, manufacturing, and machine program.”
Congressman Josh Harder has made his support for technical training and VOLT Institute in particular known since taking office, attending several of the school’s events and calling training in key areas a matter of statewide importance. “This is huge news – we’ve got all these talented people in the Valley who want good-paying jobs close to home, but they don’t always have the skills or experience they need to fill them,” said Representative Harder. “VOLT has already proven they can step in to fix this problem, and now they’re going to have even more capacity to get people prepped and into a good career. It’s good for businesses looking to hire, it’s great for workers, and it’s one more way we can signal to employers outside of our area that we have a highly-skilled workforce ready to get the job done.”
For more information about the VOLT Institute visit the website at https://voltinstitute.com/ or call (209) 566-9102.