Many regional manufacturing companies are faced with tough attrition issues right now. With high turnover, an aging workforce or any of the other myriad challenges causing a skills gap, the need for employees with advanced skills is tremendous. Regionally, we have many programs focused on bringing in the next generation of the manufacturing workforce, but what do we do in the meantime to fill the void of advanced-skill workers?

In 2016, the Chancellor’s Office of California Community Colleges announced a workforce development grant program to bolster regional apprenticeship programs in specific industries, including manufacturing. State Center Community College District applied for the grant with the support of local manufacturers, and our region was awarded a $1 million grant early this year.  The grant, managed at Madera Community College Center-Reedley College, is headed by Dan Sousa, coordinator of apprenticeship training and Katherine Medina-Gross, apprenticeship counselor, and is supported by the Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards for guidance and official state approval of the programs developed under the grant. Dan and Katherine wasted no time in pulling employers together to design the maintenance mechanic program under the grant.

“We asked the companies we had been working with on other apprenticeship programs if they would be interested in a maintenance mechanic program and all of them said yes,” says Dan Sousa, who has a lengthy background in manufacturing, and intimately understands the challenges and needs of the companies on the design committee.


In February of 2017, the committee – consisting of teams from Producers, Azteca Milling, Constellation Brands, Lyons Magnus, O’Neill Vintners and Wawona Frozen Foods – came together as the Central Valley Maintenance Apprenticeship Committee to develop the standards. The committee works directly with Dan and Katherine, and Rachel Freeman, Senior Apprenticeship Consultant for the Department of Industrial Relations, the state arm that sets apprenticeship standards. As of the first week of May, the committee is set to submit their proposal to the state for approval and begin programs in the fall.

“This team is very motivated. This process usually takes six months to a year, and here we are ready to submit for state approval in just four months,” Rachel says.

The program is four years, consisting of 8000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 576 hours of classroom instruction. Participants must maintain an average 80% passing grade in their class work to meet the criteria for program completion. Some of the employers involved are looking at between 630 and 891 hours of classroom instruction, depending on their individual needs for their maintenance mechanic positions. The DAS’s support is remarkable and allows for great flexibility for each employer involved, understanding that removing the barriers will increase involvement. The participants will kick-off the program with a safety class in the fall, and outcomes relating directly to each program’s objectives will be measured over the course of the programs.

There has been significant interest among current employees of each company. The agreement to invest in their human capital is reciprocated by a willingness to commit to a four-year program by the employees, all of who will be certified journeymen when they graduate from the program. It is a particularly significant investment – one that is expected to see a boost in retention and transcendence in company culture, reinforcing that these employers are committed to their people’s development.

This is one of many programs that has been developed with the California Apprenticeship Initiative grant, focused on the manufacturing sector. If you are interested in exploring apprenticeship programs, contact Dan Sousa at, or 559-324-6451.

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