(Photo: College of the Sequoias)
For several years in Visalia, employers told the Visalia Economic Development Corporation and the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board they had a problem.
Their present and future workers needed to understand how to function better in the workplace—what they call “soft skills.”
For Jorge Zegarra at the College of the Sequoias that was a clue to get to identify and refine trainings to meet the employer needs.
“We work with employers to meet their workforce needs because we have the willingness to improve the economic growth and global competitiveness of business and industry in our region,” Zegarra said. “This helps more workers achieve upward mobility, which in turn improves their livelihood.”
The college offers an Essential Workplace Skills Training for employees of the manufacturing and logistic companies in the community. The training consists of eight sessions of three hours each and teaches basic skills like communications, problem solving, time management and critical thinking to name a few.
The classes are either held at the Training Resource Center at the College or at a local employer.
Another workplace challenge identified by employers is training people how to manage.
“Often, you will promote a valued employee into a managerial position, and they don’t have any managerial experience,” said Bruce Nicotero, who runs the JoAnn Stores distribution center in the Visalia Industrial Park.
The Frontline Supervisory Academy is a 36-hour course that covers 12 modules in three-hour increments in which new or existing managers learn tips about how to manage and motivate, the importance of teamwork, and how to manage change in today’s economy.
“We have an open enrollment approach to support small businesses where they can send one or two of their employees,” said Zegarra, who said that a class would normally need from fifteen to twenty participants.
In addition, the College of the Sequoias has partnered with a local employer in the city's industrial park to offer an open enrollment electrical safety and industrial motor controls class that will begin this spring—as well as offering several food safety related trainings to help local employers comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act.
“The San Joaquin Valley now has sustainable support systems for Community Colleges that are industry led,” said Gurminder Sangha, Sector Navigator for Advanced Manufacturing for the California Community Colleges. “South Valley Industrial Collaborative, and San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance are the regional platforms supporting the development of K-16 CTE programs and pathways that are aligned with regional industry needs. Now my focus will be on the creating such partnerships across California to help support the Vision for Success.”
The COS mission talks about being focused on student learning that leads to productive work, lifelong learning and community involvement.
For Nicotero and other employers, there’s an appreciation for the work the college is doing not only to help employers today, but also to help build momentum for the South Valley Industrial Collaborative.
“We’ve held two Industrial Summits and we are in the early stages of building the process which will attract more industry partners and hopefully even more cooperation with local community colleges to address the key issue of workforce preparation,” said Nicotero.
The California Economic Summit—which will be held in Fresno this year (November 7-8)—brings together public, private and civic sector leaders to collaborate and adopt initiatives for fueling job creation and a stronger economy. The Summit—a collaboration of California Forward and the California Stewardship Network—has identified a strong workforce as critical to widely shared prosperity.
“It is exciting to see robust relationships developing between community colleges and employers in the Central Valley,” said Susan Lovenburg, director of the Partnership for Economic Prosperity for California Forward. “Their collaboration is crucial to building the workforce of the future.”