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Inland Empire technical school has solid first year

InTech Center, which opened one year ago, has already placed some people in local jobs. Its next task is to become better known.

One year after it opened, the InTech Center in Fontana appears to be off to a good start.

The learning center, located on the campus of California Steel Industries near the Auto Club Speedway, trains students to fill technical jobs, positions that in past years have often gone unfilled.

Since it opened on March 23, 2016, about 150 people who were out of work when they signed up for classes at InTech Center have completed one of the school’s training programs, said Sandra Sisco, the school’s economic development director.

Of those, about 86 have found jobs, Sisco said.

Intech Center trainees have landed at Northrup Grumman, Fender Corp., PepsiCo. and Ventura Foods, among other places.

“There’s been some trial and error, but on the overall I think we’ve done pretty well,” said Sisco, who is also economic development director at Chaffee College, which oversees InTech Center. “The local business community has responded well to what we’re doing.”

So far, about 1,100 people have trained at InTech Center, formally known as the Industrial and Technical Learning Center of the Inland Empire. It charges no tuition, employers are not charged for hiring its students and it’s the only school of its kind in the Inland Empire.

Of InTech Center’s first-year students, about half were people already employed who signed up for classes to enhance their skills and increase their chances of finding a better job.

The rest were people who were out of work and are still in training, and the 65 or so who have completed their training and are still looking to get hired.

“People who come here are looking for more than a job,” Sisco said. “Yes, they want a steady paycheck, but they really want a career path and some sense of what they will be doing in the future. And we want them to keep coming back so they acquire more skills and keep finding better work.”

For years, a lot of well-paying jobs in the two-county region – especially in logistics and manufacturing – have gone unfilled. One reason is that those sectors, especially logistics, have become so complicated that jobs have become more difficult to fill. It’s no longer possible for someone with no training to walk into a warehouse-distribution operation, which is highly computerized, and immediately go to work.

Another reason is that not enough people know those jobs are out there.

“I don’t think your typical high school or college student has any idea they can have a good, well-paying job in logistics or manufacturing,” Sisco said. “They’re all looking for that hot, snappy job, but that might not be out there anymore.”

The Inland Empire Regional Training Consortium – a group of community and four-year colleges, including UC Riverside and Cal State San Bernardino –  established InTech Center.

The 28,000-square-foot facility, which includes a conference center and cafeteria, got started with a $15 million grant from Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training. That entity is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Since then, InTech Center has received a $1 million grant from The James Irvine Foundation, funding that it will use to place students in internships and provide advanced training for its students who already have jobs.

InTech Center’s goal is to train workers and get them placed quickly, preferably with a business in Riverside or San Bernardino counties.

Students are trained in advanced manufacturing, advanced transportation, logistics, energy and utilities as well computers and digital media. They can also take classes in mechatronics, which is learning how to manage the robots that are more and more replacing humans, especially in warehouse-distribution facilities.

No one can argue that InTech Center fills a major need in the Inland Empire, said Mike Stull, a professor of entrepreneurship and director of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino.

“Overall, I’d say their first year has been a big success,” Stull said. “They’ve placed some people in good jobs, and they’ve got a good program in place. I would expect them to continue along that trajectory.”

As InTech Center head into its second year, officials will focus much of their effort on making the school better known, especially within the local business community.

“We have social media and we belong to a lot of councils and other organizations where we can network,” Sisco said. “There is a real spirit of collaboration in the Inland Empire. It’s just a matter of getting the word out.”

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