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TID offers skills course for community members
TID skills course
The Turlock Irrigation District’s inaugural Construction and Maintenance Skills Series taught community members who were accepted into the program skills like plumbing, electrical, concrete, welding, confined-space pipeline training, heavy-equipment operation, and more (Photo courtesy of TID).

The inaugural class of Turlock Irrigation District’s Construction and Maintenance Skills Series completed its training on Wednesday and received certificates from TID general manager Michelle Reimers.

Fifteen applicants were accepted from a field of dozens of applicants, and 11 of those 15 took up TID on its offer of free instruction in areas such as plumbing, electrical, concrete, welding, confined-space pipeline training, heavy-equipment operation, and more.

Only one student failed to make it to the end of the program, which required once-a-week attendance for four hours per session.

Graduates can now apply their skills toward seeking employment with TID, other irrigation districts, or elsewhere.

“For us, it’s giving back,” said TID construction and maintenance department manager Chris Hardin, who was part of the team that helped put the program together and donated his time each week to help instruct the students. “Especially with the youth. We’ve all started somewhere, and maybe we weren’t college-bound. This is about giving back to the field and helping them out.”

Reimers said the program was born out of a skull session.

“I got a group of managers together to kind of do some brainstorming about upcoming challenges filling roles, both on the electrical side and the water,” said Reimers. “Chris Hardin helped put the group together, and all the instructor time is volunteered. I’m so proud of the employees that put this together.”

“We do get a lot of candidates applying for these positions, but as we go through the process, we learn that it might not be a great fit or they didn’t think it was the job they thought it was. We wanted to give people the opportunity to really come in and see what work is needed here at TID and then also see the opportunities they would have at the district.”

It also serves as a recruitment tool for TID, to train potential workers and evaluate their abilities.

Nineteen-year-old Bruce Vazquez of Turlock was looking to gain skills that would lead him into a life-long career.

“I came across a Facebook post about the program,” said Vazquez, who is attending Merced College in pursuit of his welding certification. “They asked what our goals are and what we want to accomplish in life. One of my goals is to retire my parents and continue to work hard and be the workhorse, and I think TID gives you that opportunity to showcase what you can do, and take pride in the processes that you have to go through.”

Brandon Freitas, 18, of Hilmar, was curious as to what he might learn and what TID had to offer.

“I wanted to see the entry levels for these kinds of jobs, because I’ve never done these types of jobs,” said Freitas, who works with his father in the landscaping industry. “Some of these skills I’ve already had, like working with concrete and plumbing because of having to work with sprinkler systems.”

Kyle Fagan, 18, of Modesto, said he’s known for a while that sitting behind a desk wasn’t for him. 

“I wanted to get actual hands-on work doing something in construction or otherwise,” said Fagan. “I’ve been trying to get any chance I can to learn more and more.”

Though still in flux, Reimers indicated that TID is likely to continue the program and could make more five-week courses available throughout the year.

“I think that’s what we would discuss,” said Reimers. “Right now, (staff) jumped at the chance to do this voluntarily every Wednesday for five weeks. They have a complete passion to teach and spread this throughout the community, but I think it’ll be a balance of their work life and home life.”