Apprenticeship program to train skilled workers


A three-way partnership fueled by state and federal workforce development grants will add 16 skilled jobs in the SCV starting this month.

AMS Fulfillment Services is collaborating with College of the Canyons and Goodwill Southern California. AMS will gain the apprentices, the college will help train them, and Goodwill is adding its expertise building and running apprenticeship programs.

“The jobs that need to be filled in shipping, receiving, inventory management and fulfillment are the flip side of the jobs that are going away in the brick-and-mortar retail sector,” said Jeffrey Forrest, the college’s vice president, workforce development. “These jobs came from the explosion of online retailing.”

Starting next week, 25 finalists will go through an interview process with representatives from all three partners to select the 16 who will begin two-year apprenticeships as material coordinators.
The jobs involve packing and shipping, managing inventory, providing customer service, data input and retrieval, and safe use of warehouse equipment like forklifts.

“There is a critical shortage of skilled labor in the Santa Clarita Valley and throughout California,” Forrest said. “If we don’t develop a talent pipeline to meet those needs, employers will leave the SCV for markets where they can find the workforce they need.”

The apprenticeships receive funds from two sources, one state and one federal.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office provided a $260,000 jump-start grant as part of the California Apprenticeship Initiative Grant program, Forrest said.

The grant is designed to help launch the apprenticeship program with the expectation that it will find other funding sources.

Federal funding, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, signed into law in 2014, will add five dollars per apprentice per working hour up to 640 hours, roughly another $50,000.

The federal law encourages employers to strengthen apprenticeship programs, said Ken Wiseman, CEO and managing partner at AMS, and means “we can have better shadowing of apprentices and make sure they don’t get stuck in a silo” where they only learn a narrow skill set.

College of the Canyons, largely through its business program, will offer instruction to the apprentices in areas that include English-language proficiency, customer service, and computer literacy.

The college will also bolster apprentices’ job-specific skills using an online curriculum created by WorkHands, a national network created in 2012 to connect skilled workers to jobs.

And the college will take the lead on getting the apprenticeship program certified by the state’s Division of Apprenticeship Standards, a part of the Department of Industrial Relations.

Goodwill Southern California helps employers, including fulfillment companies like AMS and online retailers like Amazon, connect with the skilled workforce they need, said Tracy DiFilippis, apprenticeship coordinator.

“We also help job candidates gain English-language skills, digital literacy and the leadership and self-management skills that will help make them successful employees,” DiFilippis said.

“And we help job seekers find out where the jobs are. Many people drive by these big-box buildings and have no idea what kinds of jobs those companies are looking to fill.”

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