UPS, high-speed rail, Amazon offering high-paying jobs as Tulare County’s unemployed seek to re-enter the workforce
TULARE COUNTY – With an unemployment rate of 12.2% in September, there are still many Tulare County workers seeking to re-enter the workforce.
Just as many workers are losing extra unemployment benefits and struggling to make ends meet, several large employers have arrived or are on the move to Tulare County creating a convergence of available jobs with available workers.
September ended with confirmation that Amazon is building a fulfillment center in Visalia Industrial Park. The momentum carried into October when California High Speed Rail welcoming its first cohort of trainees at its Central Valley Training Center in Selma on Oct. 5. By mid-month UPS had opened its brand new distribution hub right next door to the Amazon property.
Mayor Bob Link confirmed at the Sept. 21 Visalia City Council meeting Amazon was planning to build a 1.2 million-square foot distribution center at the corner of Riggin Avenue and Plaza Drive. These fulfillment centers typically employ 1,000 or more people. Amazon’s Fresno distribution center “ships over 1 million packages per day and has created over 3,500 jobs within the immediate area” according to Clayco, the company that built the 855,000-square foot facility at the North Pointe Business Park in Fresno. The Bakersfield fulfillment center is offering warehousing jobs paying $15 to start and full-time employees immediately qualify for comprehensive health benefits as well as a 401(k) program with a 50 percent company match. Amazon also offers to pay 95% of tuition for college courses in in-demand fields, regardless of whether that education relates to their current job with Amazon.
Classes at the HSR’s Central Valley Training Center started on Oct. 5. The training center provides pre-apprenticeship classes and hands-on construction industry training for residents across the Central Valley looking to work on the nation’s first high-speed rail project. The training center and its programs are aimed at serving veterans, at-risk young adults, minority and low-income populations between the counties of Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern, Madera and Merced.
“Our workforce is growing and moving forward. Every trade is increasing their apprenticeship programs because people are asking for these opportunities,” said Chuck Riojas, executive director of the Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings Building Trades Council. “The Central Valley Training Center is part of it. This effort is a convergence of momentum happening across the state, within all trades and labor unions, and high-speed rail is helping make it a reality in the Central Valley.”
Classes help students prepare for careers in over 10 different trades including: bricklayer, carpenter, cement mason, electrician, iron worker, operating engineer, painter and allied trade, plumber and pipe fitter, roofer/waterproofer, sheet metal worker and Teamster. The training center boasts small class sizes (limited to 40 students), short terms (you can graduate in just 16 weeks), apprenticeship opportunities, orientation to construction industry, physical fitness training and job safety, tool and material identification, construction math, CPR/first aid certification, a 10-hour OSHA course for construction (which will provide you with a Department of Labor card) and soft skills, such as active listening, teamwork, work ethics and more. Jobs range from $21 per hour for apprenticeships up to $43 per hour for journeyman.
To qualify for training center, workers must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and pass a drug test. Those interested can apply online, fill out the interest form and HSR will contact you to schedule an orientation to complete the application and assessment process. For more information about the Central Valley Training Center and its program, visit cvtcprogram.com.
Regardless of how you feel about the funding of the California High Speed Rail, it has certainly brought some high-paying jobs to the Central Valley. As of Sept. 4, HSR reported a daily average of 1,100 workers dispatched to construction sites throughout the Central Valley, many of them skilled laborers such as electricians, cement masons and steel workers. Out of the more than 4,300 workers dispatched to the project, 226 reported living in Madera County, 1,791 living in Fresno County, 128 living in Kings County, 406 living in Tulare County, and 580 in Kern County. It is estimated high speed rail will bring nearly 2,000 jobs to the Central Valley, specifically between Bakersfield and Merced.
The HSR Authority unanimously approved the final environmental impact documents in September, providing full clearance to begin any and all construction projects along the 171 mile stretch of the bullet train.
UPS’s new distribution center went operational last month and has brought with it many higher-than minimum wage jobs with benefits. UPS spokesperson Kim Krebs said the “new Visalia package sortation and distribution center will create more than 625 new full-and part-time well-paying jobs.” Located at 31551 N. Plaza Dr., the 88-acre complex boasts a 450,000-square foot distribution center. According to its website, UPS jobs at the Visalia facility range from sorters and loaders to delivery and tractor trailers drivers. Package handlers make between $10 and $17 per hour, delivery drivers $16 to $39 per hour and tractor trailer drivers from $20 to $39 per hour. Most of the company’s offer provides health, dental, and vision coverage, retirement benefits, paid holidays and vacation days.