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MJC programs to enhance irrigation systems, provide drought relief training
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As the drought continues to parch the state for the fourth year in a row, Modesto Junior College is instituting new courses and programs that focus on irrigation and drought relief.

MJC offers two Drought Relief Training programs funded through legislation signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown.  MJC offers both irrigation technician training and logistics and warehouse technician training at no cost to eligible participants. 

The training programs provide skills-training for people whose livelihoods have been affected by the drought to assist their transition into employment in other industries or to learn new skills to promote more effective systems of irrigation.

The Drought Relief Training is a regional initiative involving six colleges that is administered by MJC/Yosemite Community College District.  The programs are the result of an agreement signed by the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Employment Training Panel and California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office that provides training to workers and employers in the California areas hit hardest by the drought. 

The need for these programs continues to grow.  With Governor Brown’s announcement on April 1, of a proposed 25 percent reduction on California’s water supply agencies, new restrictions will be imposed to further reduce water use by homeowners, farms and businesses, including cemeteries and golf courses and other industries maintaining large landscapes. 

MJC’s irrigation technician training serves individuals seeking employment as irrigation technicians, farm managers and system operators, and prepares them for the Certified Agriculture Irrigation Specialist test offered by the Irrigation Association.

The first cohort of general irrigation technician participants began in January by taking a 3-unit class in Irrigation and Drainage (MAGM 235).  The second cohort will begin in the fall semester by enrolling in the MAGM 235 course.  The advanced irrigation technician class will be a combination of the two cohorts and that class will begin in January 2016. 

The logistics and warehouse technician training is geared toward assisting those who need to train for new employment due to the drought.  The program teaches skills needed for employment as warehouse technicians and/or lift truck (forklift) operators, and includes training in sit-down, stand-up and reach lift trucks and safety, inventory control and scan gun use, Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Logistics Associate and Certified Logistics Technician, vocational English as a second language, basic computer literacy, basic math, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10 and CPR/First Aid certification.  Classes are currently being offered weekday afternoons and Saturdays.

MJC is one of six colleges receiving the drought-aid funding for training. The other participating institutions are College of the Sequoias, with a MSSC Certified Production Technician program; Fresno City College, with forklift operations/warehouse technician program: Merced College, with offerings in water treatment operations and electrical industrial maintenance; Reedley College, offering irrigation evaluation and maintenance technician and food safety technician trainings, and West Hills College-Coalinga, offering the California agriculture irrigation specialist and qualified applicators license trainings.

In addition to Drought Relief Training programs, MJC has also been awarded a three-year grant for $833,174 from the National Science Foundation which will benefit the academic success and preparedness of agricultural irrigation technicians.

The project will increase the number of irrigation technicians and designers prepared to improve agriculture water management, increase irrigation delivery system efficiency, and enhance on-farm water conservation.

Central Valley soil, some of the richest in the world, has been severely impacted by multiple years of drought, and technology has developed more quickly than the irrigation industry can keep up with, creating a skills gap. The critical need for irrigation efficiency and water conservation led to the development of this program to provide irrigation technicians with state-of-the-art skills.

MJC’s new associate degree will combine a strong foundation in science (plant science, soil science, hydrology, and meteorology) with cutting edge technology that enables workers to accurately put water when and where it is needed. Technology that enables remote monitoring such as drones, precise irrigation designs and projections, and increased water conservation will be embedded in the new program. Graduates of this program will be skilled technicians with scientific backgrounds who will help fill a growing need in the agriculture industry over the next decade. 

Curriculum will be developed that advances the efficient design and use of irrigation systems. Students will learn to use state-of-the art technology, including AutoCAD, advanced Excel, drones, wireless sensor networks, Geographic Information System mapping (GIS), and soil measurement probes to design, manage and evaluate agriculture irrigation systems.

The grant includes an Agriculture Irrigation Summer Institute that will introduce students to the technology and career opportunities available in this important industry.

For more information contact MJC program leads, Steve Amador, professor of agricultural mechanics, 575-6215 or Don Borges, director of agricultural education and technical preparation, 575-6449.

For more information regarding MJC’s Drought Relief Training programs, contact Elizabeth Orozco-Wittke at 575-6635, or, or visit