Local industries snap up mechanics trained in this downtown Modesto program

The VOLT Institute has graduated its second class of maintenance mechanics into Modesto-area industries ready to put them to work.

Thirty-six men and women walked the concrete floor during Wednesday’s ceremony.

They had spent eight months learning about pumps, machining, electricity, welding, pneumatic systems and other tasks valued in the workplace. Some were new to the field. Others were mechanics whose employers paid the $7,250 tuition to upgrade their skills.

“It’s really the little things — self-discipline, getting things done the correct way the first time,” said student Jason Potts, who already works at the A.L. Gilbert feed mill in Keyes.

VOLT stands for Valley Occupational and Learning Technical Institute. It was launched in 2016 by Opportunity Stanislaus, which promotes job creation, and the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

The latter bought the former Modesto Bee building, filling the block at 13th and H streets, for use by VOLT and other programs. The newspaper moved to 11th and J streets.

VOLT has support from employers in the area’s vast food and beverage sector, including wineries, canneries, nut processors and dairy companies. Local hospitals take part, too, since they have complex mechanical systems to maintain.

Graduation speaker Paul Crisanty hopes to get a job with Gallo Glass Co., one of several employers taking part in a job fair that preceded the ceremony.

“We have to keep at it,” he told his classmates. “Never give up. Learn from your mistakes.”

The program boasts an 88 percent hiring rate for the 2018 and 2019 classes.

The job fair included Rizo Lopez Foods, which makes cheese under the Don Francisco label in Modesto.

“We’re looking for someone we can groom into a maintenance mechanic,” said Glenda Tobia, human resources manager. “We have a hard time finding those people who have that jack-of-all-trades ability.”

VOLT shares space with Northern California Construction Trades Inc., which trains people in carpentry and related skills. Other programs could be added in the future.

Wednesday’s job fair featured employers such as Foster Farms poultry, Crystal Creamery dairy, Sciabica olive oil, Gallo wine and Sierra Pacific Industries lumber. And a company called Entreka was recruiting people for an upcoming Modesto plant where it will assemble wooden frames for home-building.

“The skill sets they get here in how to frame a house translate into what we do,” said Meredith Cramer, human resources manager.

VOLT’s next maintenance mechanic class will start in October. More information is at

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.