When it was announced a few years ago that Walmart and Amazon would be locating distribution centers in Shafter, a question was put to Business Development Director Bob Meadows about the opportunities for employment at the facilities. Wondering if there were enough qualified people in Shafter to fill the positions, Meadows said that he didn't know what percentage of the jobs would end up going to Shafter residents.
Thanks to a partnership between Shafter High School, the Wonderful Company and Bakersfield College, there will be numerous qualified individuals coming out of Shafter High School that could fill those positions.
The Industrial Automation Certification Program gives Shafter students a chance to learn the skills that would allow them to thrive in an automated environment. According to Shafter High counselor and program leader Juan Leyva, students are recruited for the program and others with an interest in the field can apply, giving them an opportunity to receive an Industrial Automation Certification at the same time of receiving their high school diploma.
Similar to the Dual Enrollment Program that gives Shafter students a chance to earn an associates degree through Bakersfield College at the same time of their regular school sessions, the Industrial Automation program prepares students for a variety of careers in the field.
At the beginning, the program's participants attended classes after their regular school day ended. This year, the program is integrated into the students' regular school day, essentially having the students use their electives to take the four courses involved in the program. The Certification Program is a two-year commitment that involves classroom work, hands-on classes, and toward the end of the program, there are trips to the Wonderful Company for real job interaction.
Upon graduation, the students completing this program will be qualified for a variety of positions in the industrial and automation fields.
There are 55 students in the program, with 24 expected to end the year with AA degrees (they started last year).
This sounds great to one student who has been working in the program for a year and a half. Noe Rodriguez was asked what got him interested in the program. "Honestly, at first it was the money. You can earn six figures in this field, and I really believe that this (automation) is the future."
Rodriguez said that he really enjoys the work, programing remotes and learning how to control the automated system. "There is such a sense of accomplishment to see a program that you helped create controlling an entire conveyor belt system," said Rodriguez.
When nearing graduation, the Wonderful Company has an internship program that pays the students to learn at the company's facility with hands-on experience in the automation field.
The program is really a win-win situation, giving students a chance to get ahead in their pursuit of their goals, and giving the Wonderful Company a "wonderful" workforce to choose from.