Posted on

Volt Institute

Written by Tyler Richardson and Kevin Fox

It’s an exciting time at VOLT Institute. Two years of planning for scaled-out manufacturing training is finally coming to fruition. New equipment is arriving and being assembled. Additional instructors are coming onboard. Guided by an advisory board comprised of local employers, the organization seeks to adjust and move forward quickly. This includes changes to allow for operations amidst a global pandemic.

While the debates over masks, indoor dining, and county-specific guidelines continue, VOLT Institute never missed a beat. VOLT staff developed and implemented a comprehensive plan to keep students engaged and progressing toward in-demand careers in manufacturing with higher wages and job security. When school closures began in late March, VOLT had remote learning in place and students transitioned seamlessly. By April, other VOLT Institute training opportunities also moved into the virtual realm. 

The Supervisor Development Academy operated in partnership with Ag Safe began meeting online with workshops adjusted to two hour time blocks instead of four. Admittedly, there were concerns that this training for frontline supervisors to tackle real world situations while managing teams would not be as effective in a virtual space, but Ag Safe trainer Angelina Ceja reported that feedback from participants in this workshop remains positive. Volt’s Supervisor Development Academy gives supervisors a foundation to develop skills essential to furthering their personal and organizational success. The program addresses leadership, communication, conflict resolution, planning, and team building with an emphasis on building peer-to-peer relationships.

VOLT Institute’s popular efficiency training, Career Accelerator Program (CAP), taught by Beaudette Consulting INC. was made available remotely as well. This valuable curriculum focuses on organizational change management, continuous improvement, employee engagement, process improvement, and critical thinking problem solving are the “soft skill” training industry demands. Student survey results indicated that the length of time for each of the online training sessions was appropriate and engaging and either met or exceeded expectations. 

VOLT Institute campus reopened June 15 it was with strict COVID-19 protocols in place including mandatory wearing of masks. To ensure social distancing, students comfortable returning to the downtown Modesto campus continued their training on campus by appointment. One-on-one instruction is being offered by VOLT instructors to help students make up time lost during the mandatory shutdown.

Through it all, VOLT administration continues developing new partnerships with regional manufacturers such as the new internship program with Flowers Baking Co. This partnership gives VOLT students an opportunity to receive valuable work experience. Recently, two VOLT graduates have been accepted into E. & J. Gallo Winery’s maintenance apprenticeship program. Other VOLT graduates have started new careers in manufacturing at California’s oldest family-owned dairy, Crystal Creamery and the world’s largest plastic pipe manufacturer, JM Eagle.  Reports from VOLT alumni about promotions and wage increases are too numerous to list but VOLT is especially proud of its 96% job placement rate. 

VOLT also partnered with Valley First Credit Union to provide loans to students. This allows students looking to improve their long-term wage outcomes to apply for funding with most payments deferrable until the program is complete. The application process is online and very user-friendly. In addition, students get to participate in financial wellness training. Before the availability of the loan program, some potential students were deterred by the cost, which is low compared to similar programs of VOLT’s caliber but still represented a modest financial investment.

VOLT’s Senior Leadership Series in partnership with Next Gear Consulting is back. The series is designed to teach top level manufacturing and other executives important skills in strategic planning, building a positive company culture and leadership. Taught by Kristi Marsella, CEO of Next Gear Consulting, and former VP of Human Resources at G3 and E. & J. Gallo Winery, this series is a great opportunity to improve leadership skills. 

One of the most in demand technical skills for plant maintenance mechanics to have as the fourth industrial revolution progresses is a solid understanding of the internet of things. The implementation of complex automation has become the standard throughout industry. VOLT Institute’s partnership with Automation Group to teach both introductory and intermediate Programmable Logic Controls (PLC) courses as part of the award-winning industrial maintenance mechanics programs in a 20-hour boot camps are efficient and helpful for participants. Three boot camps are being offered for the summer session through August and September with assistance from California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC). Reduced student capacity for the training helps accommodate social distancing protocols.

As VOLT continues to receive deliveries from Amatrol, unpack and install new mechatronic, process control, and advanced electrical training equipment from the shipping crates, the vision first conceived three years ago starts to fall into place. Unskilled or semi-skilled workers have the opportunities to acquire the aptitude and the attitude to be competitive in a fast-paced manufacturing environment. They can earn higher wages with job security while fueling a vibrant, healthy economy in the Central Valley Region by strengthening each company’s most valuable asset: their people. All this happens while simultaneously hearing the voices from the advisory board and responding to the needs of investor partners in a rapidly evolving manufacturing industry. Training in electro-mechanical work with advanced programmable logic controls experience and access to nationally-recognized certifications such as National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) coupled with the new technology training are a pathway for long term sustainability for California’s Central Valley manufacturing industry. 

In the midst of a global pandemic, one thing stands out. Strategic planning is how to move forward. The ability to be nimble is a key component to the success of any strategic plan. If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, not the goal. VOLT Institute is proud to be part of the solution for California’s Central Valley manufacturing industry. Higher wages and job security are very good ways to attract new talent to the California manufacturing industry and grow quality of life for those already living in the area. Whether the talent is new to the area or locals with deep roots one thing is certain: VOLT will continue to thrive and provide the quality of training everyone in the area deserves. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Explore – Review: Evening Events in the Valley

We are nearing the end of the summer season. The days are still long, and the nights will soon begin to cool, which means it’s a great time to take advantage of some of the evening events happening around the Central Valley. Here are three that I think are worth checking out.

Gazebo Gardens Beer Garden

3204 N. Van Ness Blvd, Fresno CA
Thurs-Sat year round
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm

If you’re looking for an evening of food and music in a beautiful locale, then Gazebo Gardens is your destination. They turn this nursery into a Beer Garden with food trucks and live music every Thursday through Saturday evening year round. You can grab a bottle of beer or select one of the 5-8 beers on tap at one of the two stands. Then, wander through the roses, statues, and shrubs to find seating nestled between the plants. Kids love to run through the gardens, playing tag around the trees and under the gazebo, and watching for the trains that pass by throughout the evening. There is even a raised pond to explore. 

When you’re feeling peckish, stroll through an assortment of food trucks. There are generally 8-12 trucks to choose from, and they rotate regularly so you can find your favorites and try new ones. We have sampled sliders from Meltdown Bistro, chicken tikka masala from Ganesha Masala, falafel and gyros from Holy Shish, vegan burritos from El Jaca, and both creamy and boozy shaved ice from Sno Cafe. All are delicious and are made better by the friendly and relaxed environment. And did I mention the dogs? Gazebo Gardens is dog friendly and usually abounds with furry friends. 

There is always a live band performing on their small stage near one of the beer garden taps. There are picnic-style tables in front, and a few more rows off to the side. Some even have inset fire pits for cooler evenings. While there are tables and chairs scattered throughout the gardens, seating can be hard to come by on more popular nights. I suggest sending a scout while you wait for your beer or dinner. Luckily, people are generally friendly and wander around when not eating, so seating eventually becomes available. And even if you can’t get a spot near the band, the music carries throughout the gardens, making it a lovely evening anywhere you go.

Lindsay Friday Night Market

Honolulu St/Sweet Brier Plaza, Lindsay, CA
Fridays year round
5:30 pm – 10:00 pm

If you love a good swap meet, but hate the mornings, check out the Lindsay Friday Night Market. The small town of Lindsay is home to many Hispanic and Latino families, and their cultures shine at this event. The town square is a lively hub for the market, and is often filled with people dancing to live music or a DJ. There are rows and rows of vendors selling both original and discounted goods. You can even shop for birds and farm animals. There are, in fact, so many vendors and rows that I almost got lost during my first visit. Luckily, I had a regular patron with me to keep me oriented. 

In addition to traditional goods, art, and animals, you can find an assortment of delectable food. There are the market staples of kettle corn, pizza, and hot dogs, but the real treats are the cultural options. We endured an epic line for delicious pupusas made by hand right in front of us. My boyfriend indulged in his favorite, elote (corn). I grew up eating corn on the cob, but elote comes with a buffet of possible toppings, including mayonnaise, Tajin (seasoning powder), lime, salt, and hot sauce.  

The atmosphere was friendly and lively, but not for the agoraphobic. We attended on a sweltering summer night, and the place was still packed. People were generally friendly and eager to chat, but there were long lines and crowded walkways. However, if you’re not daunted by a crowd and enjoy a festive environment, add the Lindsay Night Market to your Friday night plans.

Clovis Farmers Market

Pollasky between 5th & Bullard, Old Town Clovis, CA
Fridays during summer
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Saturdays year round
9:00 am – 11:30 am

If you’re looking for a laid back farmers market with plenty to explore, check out the Clovis Farmers Market. You can explore local produce, handmade items, and food year round every Saturday, but during the summer months you can also visit the market on Friday evenings. It is a nice way to wrap up the week and get some yummy produce for your weekend. 

I enjoyed wandering the three blocks lined with beautiful, local produce and flowers the most, but my 5 year old enjoyed the live performances and mini train ride more. There was a band set up in the center intersection, and when they were on break a local group of cloggers called the California Ground Pounders stepped in to perform. I wasn’t familiar with the genre, but it was fun to watch. If you haven’t witnessed it, envision people in modified tap shoes doing a cross between square and line dancing. And it was clear this group enjoyed what they were doing, despite the heat. 

The Clovis Farmers Market does a good job interspersing crafters, produce vendors, local companies, and food options throughout the market. There is, however, a cluster of food stations near the main intersection along with some picnic tables which were, unfortunately, in direct sunlight. We visited our friends at Fine Print Plus, bought some organic local berries, and checked out a few handmade items. We wrapped up our evening by enjoying a second band at the far end of the market, right before embarking on a windy little off-track train ride. My son was sad to go, but declared the evening a success, and I agreed.