SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY COLLEGE – NORTHERN CA
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Joining us on this episode is FRANKLIN SAAVEDRA, the trades division manager at san joaquin valley college.
san joaquin valley College has 17 locations in california. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Bob Martin: Hello and welcome to episode of Imagine America Radio. Today’s program is going to focus on certificates and diploma programs that are advancing careers in the trades. Joining us today is Franklin Saavedra, trade division manager of San Joaquin Valley College. Today we want to talk about the future of maintenance technician careers. As a leading provider of education and certificate programs in maintenance technology, we couldn’t think of anything better to call and talk to you than Franklin and in particular, San Joaquin Valley College, who was truly a leader in this area. Franklin, thank you for joining us.
Franklin Saavedra: Thank you for having me.
Bob: Hey, quickly, let’s just start off today’s discussion—and Lee is going to jump in here in a minute. Why don’t you help us a little bit—help our listeners that are going to be listening to this podcast—understand better exactly what it is that a maintenance technician is doing on a daily basis.
Franklin: So, yeah, a maintenance technician typically works in the industrial industry, where they maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery, such as conveyor systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Their responsibility for keeping the facility operating and repairing any problems when they are discovered—before they have a chance to worsen by stopping or reducing the production time. Their typical duties are electrical and mechanical troubleshooting, reading technical manuals and understanding equipment and controls, preventative maintenance processes to confirm safety standards, and schedule major repairs in the facility. And they can disassemble the equipment and machinery when there’s a problem. They’re able to repair or replace broken manufacturing components, or malfunctioning components that is, perform test and run initial batches to make sure that the machine is running smoothly. So that’s a really important part of the position. And they can detect minor problems by performing those diagnostic tests. Really, they’re looking at adjusting and calibrating equipment and machinery to optimal specifications by cleaning and lubricating equipment or machinery on a daily basis. And sometimes they’re required to move machinery around the facility.
Lee Doubleday: OK. So would it be safe to say that a maintenance technician and what they do is that they help factories and organizations run more efficiently?
Lee: All right. Awesome. Well, now that we have a better understanding of what a maintenance technician does, can you briefly describe the career opportunity for maintenance technicians?
Franklin: Yeah. So technically, they can work all across the United States. So, their overall employment of maintenance technicians in the industrial industry is projected to grow 19% from 2020 to 2030. It’s much faster than the average for all occupations. This is according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 56,300 openings for industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights are projected each year on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as retire.
Lee: Yeah, that’s exactly why we want to talk about this program on our podcast, because it is a trending career path in 2022 for individuals who are looking for something that may not require a bachelor’s degree. So why don’t we talk a little bit about the program as far as—tell me a little more about the length of the program? Is this a certificate program? We’re here today to discuss careers that require certificates or diplomas for entry. And is it safe to say that this certification that we’re talking about does not require a bachelor’s degree in order to enter the workforce?
Franklin: Yeah. Well, to start with, I’m a huge believer in the need for education as technology continues to evolve so rapidly in manufacturing and distribution industries, not only because the technology but the hazards within the occupation itself. Education can help expedite employment and advancement within the industry. Our maintenance technician certificate program is approximately seven months long, with twenty hours per week of training. It’s got a balance of formal and tactile training. The certificate will allow a graduate to obtain employment within the industry without the need for a bachelor’s degree. But we do offer an associate’s degree for those that have—that has a minimum requirement for a management-level position within the industry. And that can be completed within fourteen months. And that’s including the seven months of the certificate program. So, it’s seven additional months for them to get the associate’s degree if that’s a requirement at their place of employment.
Bob: So, it seems to me—what I think I’m hearing you say—it’s a really good entry to come in, get the certificate, get your feet wet, see if it’s the kind of program that you’re good at or that you can succeed in. And I know San Joaquin Valley prides itself in what it does to make people successful. But if they are, and they go back and say, “Jeez, I want to get a little bit more because I can get a little bit different job,” then you got that seven months additional.
Franklin: Exactly. It’s an outstanding opportunity. So, you can go get your certificate within seven months. Get out into the industry. A lot of times when employers find out as they’re applying that they’re currently enrolled in our program, they get excited and will work with them on their scheduling to make sure that they’re still able to come and get the training at San Joaquin Valley College. And from there, when they’ve completed—and let’s say they get about three years into the industry, they’ve got their certificate of completion in the maintenance technician program—and there’s an opportunity for a management position, or they just have their eye on that position in the future and they want to invest in their future, then it would only be an additional seven months for the associate of science degree.
Bob: So right now, within the system of San Joaquin, how many students do you have that are currently enrolled in this program, the certificate program?
Franklin: So, the certificate program is the main part of the program that we typically get students signing up for. I would say probably around sixty to eighty percent of our students in the maintenance technician program decide to do the cert first. Because if they’re new to the industry or if they’ve been in the industry for a long time, sometimes they know to get to that next level or that next employer or maybe just get a promotion beyond the level that they’re at with their current employer, they have to have a certificate within the industry. And so, that being said, I know that at the Ontario campus, we currently have twelve students in that class. I would say institution-wide, it is growing. And it is in need and in high demand. In the trades division, probably approximately 800 to 1,000 students. In the maintenance technician-specific program, I would say that we’re around probably fifty to a hundred students.
Bob: Yeah, yeah. So, I think the value also—you’ve alluded to it—is that getting students that’re coming from something and they may not have always been in school before or college before, and there’s always that—they are leery about what are they going to ask of me? Can I handle it? Am I going to be able to put it into my lifestyle? So that whole success thing. Talk to us about—just out of curiosity for me—the success quotient that we haven’t talked about. I didn’t tell you to go on this, but what kind of things do you have to support people that are going that direction, support services?
Franklin: Oh, yeah. We’re huge on student success. That is our vision, and that’s our mission as a college and as an institute. We have all kinds of support at every single campus. For people who are veterans and trying to transition into civilian life, we have an agreement with the VA so they can come in and get that training outside of the military. But on a campus level, we have support services from the academic dean—somebody like myself, who is a division manager over the trades or technical programs. I’m able to support the students with any questions and career guidance. If they’re having any struggles or issues, we have our dean of student services that actually can meet with the students and set up tutoring. We always offer tutoring for free, and we could schedule it in to meet their schedule. A lot of times, even though our program runs Monday through Thursday, we have campuses open on Friday for additional training in the labs. So, students who maybe are a little bit unsure about a college environment where it’s going to be fast-paced and accelerated, they know that they have tons of support. And not only that, on the front end, you’re going to get a lot of support where if you’re worried about finances, we have a financial adviser that’s going to meet with them and walk them through everything. Every step of the process, they’re there with them. Our admissions team is going to make sure that it’s the right fit for them before they enroll, explaining everything about the program and career opportunities that are out there. And then at the end, we actually have a career services department that works with them on professionalism, works with them on creating a resume, job interviews. We do mock interviews. If they wanted an industry-specific interview, they would come to somebody like myself, that’s a division manager over that program, or their instructor. And we can actually have a mock interview with industry-related questions, where the career services team really tries to develop them as a professional and teaches them different tools and tricks for interviewing processes to get them out into the industry and give them the best opportunity to take all of that knowledge and hard work that they put into the program and be able to present that to an employer and be successful in gaining employment.
Bob: And you’re doing it every day? You’re—
Franklin: Every single day.
Bob: You surround the student with a support system that helps them from the time that they start looking at school, they question, “Am I going to be able to handle it? What are the demands going to be? Can I handle the financing? Then once I’m in there—” Usually what I’ve found—since I’ve been around—usually the first six to seven weeks is critical. Meaning that, once they get in and they begin to see what’s going to be involved, your interfacing with them is absolutely critical.
Franklin: Yeah. We pride ourselves in that, and we call that first-month, first-term success. And that’s actually an area of focus for the college is we want to make sure that everybody who comes to us has an opportunity to be successful beyond just starting and beyond graduation, right? I like to tell students all the time, the goal isn’t to graduate. That’s the starting line. Then you’re going to begin your marathon of your career, your life. Right now, you’re stretching. You’re building your fundamentals. You’re practicing. You haven’t even gotten to the game yet. And so, that being said, what we do is we actually—our admissions advisers, they don’t stop at just enrolling. At a lot of other colleges, typically, you meet with your admission adviser. And they get you in the door. And then you never hear from them again. And what we do at SJVC is we make sure that our admissions advisers have to meet with all of the students that they’ve enrolled in a program every week for their first five weeks minimum. If a student continues to have concerns, we can continue that. Typically, you have myself that’s going to be checking in with them on a weekly basis throughout their entire time with us. We have our dean of students who’s always available to them and will meet with them and help them with any challenges, because we all know any time you start something new in life, life happens and you’re going to have to get over some obstacles. And we have to be there to support them. And that’s a huge part of our process because our goal is to make sure that they have a successful career beyond SJVC.
Lee: Yeah. I can just tell by the way that you’re talking about it—you can feel the passion behind your words, and you can tell that San Joaquin really cares about their students and their success, which I think is something that separates your school from others and really says a lot about your school. But tell me one or two other things that if you were a student thinking about going to school for a program like this, you would look for that would make a good fit for them.
Franklin: Yeah. Attending an accredited institution is very important for several reasons. We want to make sure that the institution is going to be around, that they’re held to a certain standard across the board, that they’re audited randomly, that they check all those boxes that a lot of the other colleges around would normally check. And, so, a few of the other things that I would say if I was going to—as a student, if I was going to give a recommendation for what you should do, I would start by, how long does it take from the start of the program, my first day of class, to the completion of the program? Because at SJVC, the reason that we have the twenty hours a week is that we want to get them into the field as fast as they possibly can because we know that typically, as an adult learner, when you’re coming into this environment, you’re ready to change your life. You’re ready to create positive change within your life. And so that time frame—three years compared to seven or eight months—is a big difference in getting into the career of your choice. So how many hours—or what hours is the program offered? Is the faculty a true subject matter expert? That’s very, very important. Are they currently working in the field? And if they’re retired, how many years of experience did they accumulate over the course of their career within that industry? Do they assist with job placement and professional development? I think that that’s extremely important for people. Not all colleges offer that. And are the courses offered relevant to the industry? Are they things that are actually going to be used while you’re out in the industry? Are the skills that you’re learning going to have a positive impact on your career growth?
Lee: Yeah. I think everything that you mentioned is obviously vitally important when a student is making a decision on where it is that they want to go to school. Now, we also have listeners who are high school counselors. They may be helping identify students that would be a good fit for a program like this and a career path in maintenance technology. So can you tell me maybe two to three personality traits that you’ve seen are traits of individuals who excel at a program like this?
Franklin: Yeah. Definitely. So that’s a great question. And a lot of times, you could miss a student that would really, really excel in this industry. And a lot of times, if you look for somebody who’s inquisitive, with the mechanical mindset where they’re curious about how objects or equipment operate. If they’re tactile learners, passionate about building or working with their hands to create an object. And they really enjoy problem-solving the unknown—it’s that student that’s always got questions, right? They want more and more information. And they love to build and develop things with their hands. They like to create with their hands. That’s extremely important for this industry. And I’d say the difference between maintenance technician and other technical fields is your typical maintenance technician will have one location that they drive to, one facility that they go to, but they also love to work with their hands. So, where it’s a little different—construction, you’re all over the place. As a maintenance technician, you could stay local and work close to home and still be able to enjoy using the tactile skills that you’re really good at doing. And those problem-solving skills will always be of high value in this industry.
Bob: I didn’t get a chance to jump in up there, but I think it’s really important just to restate something you said earlier, when you’re looking for a school, because there are a lot of options out there. And the differentiator for me with San Joaquin and others is, first of all, you’re an accredited institution, which means you have been in business for a long, long time, which also means you’ve helped probably thousands of people that are looking to change their lives. Secondly, how long a program is. And you touched upon that. The other side of how long a program is, these adults got to be figuring on how am I going to handle my weekly expenses while I’m going to college? And the sooner it is and the sooner I’m going to be able to get out there—it’s the old theory of economics, which is opportunity costs. But they’re not thinking opportunity costs. They’re thinking, “OK. How can I get through this as quickly as I possibly can, get that job?” The quality faculty is absolutely critical. If you don’t have people on your site, in your school that have done what you’re trying to teach these people to do and have a track record of doing it, your credibility is shot. Then job placement—who are you working with to get these kids paid? Because at the end of the line, they’re going to say, “OK. If I come here for six months or twelve months or fourteen months, what kind of job am I going to get?” And if you could point to people that have gone through the experience, that have done what you’re suggesting they do, that have really good jobs, they’re going to jump all over you—they’re going to jump all over it. And then finally, your industry-related content, that’s your differentiator. Those are the things that I saw. But I wanted to touch upon that because you did a really nice job at that.
Franklin: I appreciate that.
Bob: Hey, well, Franklin, we really appreciate that you did this outstanding episode of Imagine America Radio. I would really encourage any and all of our listeners to contact Franklin directly. And we’ll have all that information available to them. So, on behalf of Lee and myself, Franklin, thank you very much for a great episode.
Franklin: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity and the platform to speak to your listeners.