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Employment training in Central Valley benefits agriculture and other fields

Supportive service for the farming community requires job skills being available and some are taught by a network of vocational training outlets with classes in Madera, Merced, Winton and Modesto.

The Central Valley Opportunity Center is an educational institute dedicated to supplying valley growers with a skilled and vital workforce. This is a non-profit charitable foundation under the State of California 501(c)3. Tuition is funded by state and federal grants, with additional support from the Workforce Assistance Center and the Employment Development Department.

The stated educational objective is to train students to perform basic duties associated with entry-level job skills necessary to enter the welding trade or maintenance mechanic field. Upon completion, students will demonstrate common welding techniques and metal fabrication methods using standard metal welding, cutting, bending and shaping equipment, according to its curriculum outline.

Its vocational education trains men and women, ages 18-60-years-old, to work as welders and truck drivers needed to support the agriculture industry. Students may also learn to install solar panels or take the high school diploma equivalency test. The diploma program typically takes four to six weeks to complete. The course about renewable energy is a six-week course.

The facility in Madera teaches classes for welding, industrial maintenance and general business occupations.

Presently, there are 15 students enrolled in the welding classes under the tutelage of two instructors, said Jorge De Nava Jr. executive director of CVOC.

The class enrollment can grow to as many as 30 students at one time. The program trains about 140 students a year. The course takes about 22 weeks to complete.

The various types of welding include, gas metal arc welding known as GMAW or MIG, flux cored arc welding or FCAW and gas tungsten arc gas welding GTAW or TIG. Additionally students are taught safety, electrical, grinding and finish work, De Nava said.

“They also provide training to work with stainless steel plasma torch cutting, that is pretty popular in Madera County,” he said.

Students become fluent in blueprint reading, basic electricity and electrical maintenance and layout terminology.

“Additionally, if a Madera County resident is interested in one of its training courses taught in Merced or Stanislaus counties, such as truck driving or solar panel installation, CVOC provides no-cost transportation from Madera to Merced, Modesto or Winton for those students,” said De Nava.

Business classes include filing, record keeping, business English, math and office equipment, word processing programs, typing and 10-key operation, spreadsheet programs, Windows and Internet skills. Students also learn how to locate and apply for job opportunities, set up and handle job interviews and know employer expectations. It is a 22-week course.

The CVOC has a supportive service branch that can help students with rent, food and utility vouchers and a limited amount of child care services. Students who are collecting unemployment checks continue to receive those benefits too, said De Nava.

“Helping our students succeed includes keeping the lights on, a roof over their heads and food on the table,” De Nava said.

An eligible new student may begin instruction on Monday of any week with classes taught 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The student intake center and main office is at 1930 Howard Road, Suite 125. Welding classes are taught at 455 Pine St. Office space for the CVOC is also at the Workforce Assistance Center at 2037 Cleveland Avenue.

“Our instruction is 75 percent hands-on training, 25 percent theory,” said De Nava. “Students are supplied with equipment and basic uniforms.”

At its Winton campus, they teach cooking and restaurant skills such as food safety, work space sanitation and safety, food storage rotation, baking techniques, preparation of fruits, vegetables, soups, sauces, stocks and meat.

Retail sales classes are offered to include math skills, cashier, reports and sales charts. Restaurant and retail cashier classes are both 12-week courses.

The CVOC provides job placement service for its alumni, De Nava said.

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