Valley Works: Learning a trade

FRESNO, California

Plumbers, electricians, welders... all skilled trades that are in demand. Some local trade unions are offering excellent training through apprenticeship programs and these programs are offering a way out of unemployment for some Valley workers.

We met a group of students who are excited about learning, whether it's in the lab, or classroom. They are excited because they know the work they are doing now, will pay off with a job.

Robert Dinges, 27, is part of the class of 2012... a group of students in a five year apprenticeship program operated by a joint committee which includes the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. They are training to become state certified electricians.

Chuck Riojas, president of IBEW Local 100 says the trades offer great career opportunities for someone not going to college. "It's a viable option for a lot of people to get a skill set and train themselves in a particular skill set and become quite successful at it.

That's what excites David Sanders, 32, before entering the program Sanders held a string of dead end jobs, and was unemployed for eight months. He considers himself lucky to get into the apprenticeship program.

"Basically I went into it very goal oriented with a very goal oriented mind set," said Sanders. "I basically saw it as something that could give me a career."

Sanders is betting on the future because right now the construction industry is going through tough times. In Fresno County alone the industry lost over 9-thousand jobs between 2007 and 2010. "We have had a severe downturn in construction but all indications are there will be an upswing and we are hoping for a pretty good upswing."

When the building does take off, these guys plan to be ready for the work generated by the proposed High Speed Rail... downtown development and the solar industry. Riojas says now is not the time for those in construction to be idle. "Continue your education in some capacity to never stand still and continue to evolve."

The hard work can pay off. Those who make it through the five year program are looking at jobs that pay $35 dollars an hour.

"You know honestly I think anybody who takes the time to learn a trade is investing in the future because one of the things you can say about learning a trade is that it is never going to be obsolete."

This apprenticeship program is a good example of the skills that are needed to make workers competitive in today's job market.

We're told out of 100 applicants only ten may get into the program... the stumbling block for many is the algebra requirement. You must know math.

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