PATTERSON — These Patterson High teens have their hands full with books, boxes and shipping labels. Business logistics appealed to their practical side, with get-a-job skills for the citys fastest-growing industry, warehouse distribution.
We have two big pathways in Patterson. Ag will always be here. The other is logistics, said Patterson Unified Superintendent Phil Alfano. He ticked off the distribution centers near town: Kohls, CVS Pharmacy, Sierra Pacific, Grainger and Amazon. Rumors of another major materials mover coming halted at the tip of his tongue Theyre close to a deal, he said.
Patterson sits a stones throw from Interstate 5, traversed by 37,000 trucks daily. Open land and easy access off Sperry Avenue shuffled off grazing cattle in favor of greener-grossing pastures of asphalt. When the district went looking for what might help students find summer employment and careers close to home, warehouse work seemed a good fit, Alfano said.
We hope its a win-win for the community, he said. It took a nationwide search to find the right programs, however. We may be the first (in the West) outside of community colleges, Alfano said.
With $40,000 from Grainger and the Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute, the district spent the first part of 2010 developing the program, and that fall opened a theory class. This week, students hit the books in a different way, sending out their first product shipment, pallets of overstock books bound for needy families, Alfano said. The job teams teens, who need the experience, with the nonprofit First Book, which needs the manpower.
Providing some of that manpower is Jasmine Gallegos, a senior who said she took the class because her sister works at a warehouse. For me, its easy. I like to push myself, she said. Jasmine plans to enter the Modesto Junior College Warehouse & Logistics Training Program this fall, which the Patterson High course prepares students to take.
Gallegos talked while organizing boxes and slapping on labels with Francisco Martin in a storage shed crowded with 16 students. Francisco admitted taking the logistics class mainly for the fresh air, easing his senior homework load before heading this fall to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, for ag studies.
Classmate Kennedy Cassidy, also a senior, takes the class to manage inventory for a charitable program she runs, called Weekend Wellness. The pilot program brings food to 20 low-income Walnut Grove School families, Kennedy said.
Overseeing two classes, 36 students all told, is business logistics instructor James Toste. Managing actual inventory started this semester for everyone, he said.
Its my first time, too, so Im working through the kinks with the kids, Toste said. Its a good process for them to understand.
The system used in the old shed is decidedly low-tech: printed paper cards with titles in front of stacks of paperback childrens books. Alfano said bar codes and electronic scanners will come as money is available. Students need to know the industry standards.
Warehouses need workers who can run forklifts, know industry safety rules and inventory management basics. The industry pays about $14.25 an hour, with the average worker earning $29,630 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Patterson High will break ground mid-May on a 9,000-square-foot building for the program, more than half of which will be a working warehouse, Alfano said. The $4.1 million wing will be half paid for with state money reserved for career-linked courses and should open in time for fall 2015 classes.
The vision is for students to graduate with entry-level certificates, Alfano said. Theyll get retraining by companies, but theyll come in with 90 percent of the skills.