Free classes for Valley workers affected by drought

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California's current drought has left many in the agriculture industry without a job. The dire situation has brought new state funding for schools to help those looking for work. Colleges here in the Central Valley received roughly $1 million to provide the free classes. Reedley College received $150,000 of that money is now enrolling students in irrigation technology.

Reedley College attracts students from up and down the Central Valley. Now, they're gearing up to train a specific group of people -- those affected by California's drought.

Nancy Gutierrez, Reedley College's Agriculture Projects Coordinator, said, "Even if you are working but you need to kind of up-skill because things are changing in the industry. That's an opportunity for them to maybe earn more money or get a different job or earn a promotion, things like that."

Reedley College is teaming up with six other area schools to provide new training for drought-affected workers. This semester, Reedley College is offering a free class called "Irrigation Technical Training."

Gutierrez said, "It really covers things like irrigation scheduling and soil, water interactions and also irrigation efficiency."

At the end of the class, students have the option to take the certification test to be an Agriculture Irrigation Specialist. Reedley College will even pay for the $450 exam cost. Part of the class also includes coming out to Reedley College's farm where students can learn about the irrigation technology up close.

Ag Instructor Larry Dinis showed Action News around the farm. He said, "Right here we have some drip emitters and so they're sized according to how much water you want each tree to get or approximate. That way, we can better maintain our water supply and control the amount of water the trees get."

The students will go out in the field, learning about the different kinds of irrigation and how they can help save water.

Dinis said, "They get their hands-on experience, they get their hands dirty and can understand what they're learning."

Irrigation Technical Training class begins on Monday, August 31 at Reedley College. The class meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 5-8pm. As part of the state drought funding, the college is also providing several one-day classes for certifications. Students can enroll in the E.P.A. program that earns you a "Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper" certification.

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