Technical Employment Training (TET) cultivating highly skilled workers, transforming a city

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Photo/MJ Duncan TET in San Bernardino provides hands-on machinist skills training and manufacturing trades education to fill in-demand, high-tech positions, and cultivates highly skilled students who will be federally certified for immediate employment upon high school graduation. Pictured are two former TET students whose lives have significantly improved because the in-demand skills acquired offers them job security: (far left) Chris Bento, programmer, (right) Brian Perez with Sierra Aluminum plant operations manager Antonio Vasquez.
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The city of San Bernardino, once named an “All-America City” in the late 70’s, enjoyed a vibrant and thriving economy until the closures of Norton Air Force Base and Kaiser Steel plummeted thousands of people into sudden unemployment of which repercussions are still felt today. A team of engineers and educators believe they have come up with a blueprint that will return the city to its former economic glory days through vocational training and implementing career pathways in schools beginning at the Kindergarten level.

Technical Employment Training, Inc., or TET, is a non-profit business and manufacturing trade school founded by engineer and educator Dr. Bill Clarke and Kelly Space & Technology CEO and San Bernardino City Unified School District Board Member Mike Gallo, established in 2010 to help rebuild the city’s economy through job placement, and ensure career security and success for high school graduates.

TET provides hands-on machinist skills training and manufacturing trades education to fill in-demand, high-tech positions, and cultivates highly skilled students who will be federally certified for immediate employment upon high school graduation.

TET is unique from other trade schools in its 100 percent placement of students, operation of a manufacturing plant that offers real world applications, and role as an active partner with the school district creating industry pathways.

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“The training we provide at TET is a sustainable model that provides high-tech training with certification and job placement,” said Clarke, who worked as an engineer for General Dynamics in Pomona and taught at the high school and community college level for 35 years. “We need to bring manufacturing back and provide 21st-century skills so that displaced workers will transition from dependency to self-sufficiency.”

Photo/MJ Duncan Philip Vasquez had been unemployed for over 5 years until TAD placed him in TET’s manufacturing course that he successfully completed. Today the single father works at Walker Corporation in Ontario and enjoys financial and job security. He is pictured in front of a $3 million press mass-producing parts for Tesla Motors.

TET has partnered with the San Bernardino County’s Transitional Assistance Department’s (TAD) Welfare to Work program to train and place the unemployed into well-paying jobs upon course completion.

“Successful programs such as TET’s makes a significant difference in a person’s life because they are given the tools to succeed in a new career and be self-sufficient,” said TAD Deputy Director Sylvia Goutremout. “The last two classes have seen a remarkable 100% placement.”

With over 50% of the city’s population on some sort of public assistance, Clarke is passionate about providing displaced workers and students with in-demand skills, which he believes will lead to a rebirth of this community.

“We have to work collectively on multiple fronts to improve this city by bringing together the school district, city and county support services, faith-based and non-profits to provide wrap-around services to individuals,” Clarke said. “How we transform this city is by training people, putting them back to work in high-skilled, in-demand jobs, and graduating high school students who are adept in those skills so they can maintain job security. The eventual benefits this community will reap are immeasurable.”

TET’s extensive, 21-week Machine Trades Training Program entails an introduction to machining processes, operation of the $250,000 5-axle CNC machine, quality control, soft-skills training on job retention, and classroom instruction.

According to Clarke they cannot graduate students fast enough to fill the needs of the manufacturing industry. Recruiters from key industry employers such as Haas Automation, Walker Corporation and Garner Holt often hound TET for their next crop of graduates.

“There are so many jobs in the manufacturing sector in this region, but so few highly skilled workers to fill them,” said Michael Jensen, district manager at Haas Factory Outlet, the largest CNC machine tool builder in the Western World. “We can’t sell machines if there is no one to run them.”

The manufacturing industry has long suffered from a dated and misconceived portrayal as an industry that is low paying and low-skilled affording little in the way of career growth. The reality is that manufacturing today is a high-tech industry that offers better wages than many other employment sectors.

“We have to transform how the community regards manufacturing; it’s not a dirty and grimy industry of the past, but a sterile and highly structured environment that offers high wages.” Clarke said. “Someone who is able to make simple offsets on a CNC machine can make $70,000 – $90,000 a year,”

Michael Bermudez, vice president and general manager at Walker Corporation in Ontario, lauded TET for providing structured and disciplined training tailored to the needs of the employer.

“TET provides skilled workers to occupy positions we need filled, who can read blue prints, utilize precision measurement, and are mechanically inclined,” he said. “It is the only technical trade school that works so diligently with us and other employers to meet industry demands.”

Former student Philip Vasquez had been out of work for over five years when he was referred to TET through TAD. He has been employed at Walker for two years and the single father was finally able to afford a new car and take his 6-year-old daughter on their first vacation.

“My life has been changed because of the skill set I got from TET,” Vasquez said. “I feel blessed that I am no longer depending on the system and am able to provide well for my daughter and myself.”

This example encapsulates Gallo’s vision of dependency to prosperity, and the school board member has been working diligently alongside Clarke with the San Bernardino City Unified School District to create career pathways at high schools and respective feeder schools.

The public is invited to enroll in the next manufacturing class that begins January 30. For more information please call (909) 382-4141 or visit www.technicalemploy.org. To receive regular updates from TET, “Like” it on Facebook under Technical Employment Training, Inc. TET is located at the Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino.

This was Part 1 of a 2-part series. Next week Part 2 will cover how TET collaborated with the San Bernardino City Unified School District to implement the first comprehensive career pathway that has since become a model for other schools across the state and nation.

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