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Manteca Unified plans to offer trucking & logistics
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The need to fill trucking and logistics jobs is growing rapidly in the South County. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Manteca Unified wants to make it possible for high school graduates to land full-time jobs out of high school that start off at $19.46 an hour without looking outside the Northern San Joaquin Valley or allow them to work in the summer earning $12,000 toward college costs.

The school district is considering replicating a Patterson Unified School District program that is doing just that by creating graduates job ready to move to the front of the line in the region’s rapidly growing supply chain and logistics industries as well as the trucking sector.

Clara Schmiedt, the Manteca Unified Director of Secondary Education, said the goal is to have graduates “job ready” for careers or to move seamless into post-secondary vocational programs when they graduate.

“Not everyone is going to go to a four-year college,” Schmiedt noted.

Manteca Unified sees roughly 20 percent of its students enroll directly in a four-year college after graduation. That mirrors the national average.

It is part of an ongoing effort by Manteca Unified to sharpen vocational offerings through the Academy, the Regional Occupational Program, adult school, and even courses at traditional comprehensive high schools to make students employable in good paying jobs with skills that give them experience and knowledge that can also give them a leg up on promotions and the ability to advance for jobs that can pay as much as six figures.

“They’re not flipping burgers,” Larry Garcia, an instructor with the Patterson Unified program, told Manteca Rotarians on Thursday at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.

Certified forklift operators graduating from the program start off at $19.46 in jobs in Patterson where — like Tracy, Lathrop, Stockton, and now Manteca — are experiencing rapid growth in distribution center jobs.

And because of the supply chain and logistics training, Garcia was able to cite cases where Patterson High graduates who were enrolled in the program have entered the workforce and have been rapidly promoted to make significant jump in pay in their first year of working.

Patterson places interns with firms such as Gallo Winery, Granger Industrial Supply, and Morning Star Trucking. That working relationship and the effectiveness of the 180 hours of training students receive while they are earning requirements for a high school diploma has created a situation where those firms and others like Amazon that are sold on the effectiveness of the Patterson Unified program are now turning to the school first to fill jobs.

All 50 graduates last year were snapped up by area firms that were willing to hire significantly more from the program than Patterson High had enrolled in the vocational course.

Garcia said most students say they want to become doctors, lawyers or police officers. But after they go through a career exploration class for a semester their freshmen year and research various options they will change their minds and start considering other careers such as logistics that they had never considered before.

He pointed out that many jobs in logistics pay well, have benefits, and offer solid opportunities.

“There are so many jobs available in logistics,” Garcia noted.

He noted distribution centers offer a path to even higher paying jobs that reach into the six figures with many area employers willing to reimburse workers for additional education needed to advance to such jobs.

As for tech eventually making some jobs obsolete in technology, Garcia pointed out somebody will have to maintain and fix robots which means jobs that pay even better.

The Supply Chain & Logistics Program prepares students for more than 16 different careers. It is now offered as part of a four-year program at Patterson High starting with career choices in the freshman year and ending with hands on training with virtually every type of forklift and equipment distribution centers utilize.

The training they receive in everything from operations to safety as well as the principles of logistics allow students to be certified when they graduate and eligible for above-average wages out of school with Patterson Unified partners such as Amazon, CVS, Kohl’s, Gallo, Granger, Platt Electric, and Restoration Hardware as well as others.

Dave Dein — the trucking program instructor who was teaching the fourth grade in Patterson when he decided he wanted to utilize his pre-teaching experience in the trucking and logistics industry to help make students employable — noted firms hiring truck drivers have asked for more qualified graduates than the school is producing.

Not only is that due to the high level of growth in logistics in the Northern San Joaquin Valley but also a growing national shortage of truck drivers that the American Trucking Association placed at 48,000 in 2015. That shortfall is expected to balloon to 175,000 by 2024. Currently the average age of truck drivers is 60.

While there are a number of trucking firms clamoring for full-time drivers, he noted companies such as Morning Star Trucking that have a high demand for additional seasonal drivers to move agricultural commodities offer summer employment that can earn a Patterson High graduate $12,000 in three months after completing the professional trucking school program. He said college bound students see the program as a way to earn money for college.

Patterson High’s portion of the program delves into safety, operations, and truck driving simulators while the behind the wheel portion is done through the Stanislaus County office of Education.

The truck driving program is open to seniors free of cost. Private sector truck driving school programs cost in excess of $1,000. 

The median wage of commercial long haul drivers is $54,000 while private fleet drivers earn up to $73,000 annually.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email