Worknet, MJC develop free training for warehousing careers
by Jonathan Partridge | Patterson Irrigator
Feb 14, 2013 | 3550 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Worknet and Modesto Junior College are joining forces to prepare locals for the growing local field of logistics jobs, such as the one filled by this W.W. Grainger employee driving a forklift at the company's warehouse on May 8.--Irrigator file photo
Worknet and Modesto Junior College are joining forces to prepare locals for the growing local field of logistics jobs, such as the one filled by this W.W. Grainger employee driving a forklift at the company's warehouse on May 8.--Irrigator file photo
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Patterson has become a logistics hub with the opening of several distribution centers near Interstate 5 in recent years, but many local residents have lacked the training to capitalize on those job opportunities.

That could soon change.

Modesto Junior College and Alliance Worknet are developing a series of free courses that will begin this spring to prepare job seekers for careers in logistics and distribution.

Marla Uliana, workforce development project director for the college, said suggestions from the companies that run local warehouses would shape the curriculum.

“We want to bridge that gap between training and what happens on the job,” she said

Organizers hope to teach 200 to 250 people the skills that local warehouse operations desire, such as supply chain control, warehouse processes and material handling.

The course is likely to be split between Modesto and Patterson, but Uliana said the plans were still in flux. She said all trainees must pass an assessment exam indicating that they can meet the physical and mental requirements of logistics work.

MJC plans to consult with about 15 logistics center operators in Stanislaus County about the curriculum, Uliana said.

Those include Patterson distribution centers for Kohl’s, CVS, W.W. Grainger and auto parts manufacturer Affinia, Rowe said, as well as Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc., which is building a 1 million-square-foot fulfillment center at Park Center Drive and Sperry Avenue.

Rowe said Worknet and MJC did not have specific figures about how much the program would cost to run, but he emphasized that participants would pay nothing.

Worknet, which provides resources to help people find jobs, is a division of the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, an economic development agency that works on behalf of Stanislaus County and its cities.

Worknet receives $5 million in federal funds each year to train people who have been laid off or are self-employed and cannot get enough work. This funding will likely cover the cost of the logistics training courses, he said.

Uliana noted that Patterson is a prime location for distribution of goods to the Bay Area and Southern and Central California because of its easy access to Interstate 5.

Even so, Patterson had an unemployment rate of 20.4 percent — compared with 15 percent in Stanislaus County as a whole — in December, the most recent figures available.

Rowe said recent surveys from the state Employment Development Department labor market division have predicted that warehouse and distribution work will be increasingly available in Stanislaus County.

The department expects an average of 450 annual job openings in the county between 2008 and 2018 in the category of “Transportation and Material Moving Operations.” Of those, 102 will likely result from new growth, according to the department’s labor market survey data.

“I’m really excited about it,” Rowe said. “In our local economy, we don’t see a lot of opportunities to train significant numbers of people for jobs where there is a good amount of employment when they are finished with training.”

Last summer, Worknet and MJC teamed up on a training program in environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques, Uliana said. About 20 people took the course, which was led by Purdue University representatives. Half of the participants passed a certification exam in green manufacturing and were certified in forklift training by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Bill Bassitt, CEO of the Alliance, said the anticipated summertime opening of Amazon.com’s Patterson fulfillment center was the impetus for the logistics courses, but the vocational education partnership has a history of several years.

“We’re joined at hip with MJC on training programs,” he said.

Those who are interested in the program can call Alliance Worknet at 558-7751 or email the Alliance at awjobseeker@stanalliance.com to be added to a wait list. Registration will open at a later date.

Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or jonathan@pattersonirrigator.com.

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