News

Thursday, July 5, 2018

As published in: The Modesto Bee

$1 million from state will help Stanislaus County train people for well-paying jobs

BY KEN CARLSON

kcarlson@modbee.com

Updated July 03, 2018 06:00 PM

The VOLT Institute in Modesto has received a jolt from the state budget in the form of $1 million in funding.

It should create opportunity for training younger adults to work in industrial electronics, automation and equipment maintenance for large employers in Stanislaus County. On average, those higher-skilled jobs pay $27.80 an hour.

The state funds will expand a job-training partnership involving Modesto Junior College, Opportunity Stanislaus and the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE). The VOLT Institute, a private-sector-driven program launched in October, recently graduated a 30-member class of maintenance mechanics to work in local industries.

MJC will receive the state funding and purchase equipment for a broader array of training programs at SCOE’s trade school in the former Modesto Bee building. The money will be used to leverage federal dollars for training up to 200 students a year.

The community college has its own vocational training in industrial electronics, automation, manufacturing, welding and agricultural mechanics. While investing in training equipment and new programs at VOLT, the college also will continue with vocational training at its west campus.

What's driving the workforce training initiative is the need among employers in Stanislaus County for skilled workers to maintain equipment and troubleshoot problems in manufacturing systems.

“Regional programs that offer specific, technical training are in high demand,” said Scott Kuykendall, assistant superintendent for SCOE. “By delivering skilled training, VOLT is simultaneously meeting the needs of job seekers and industry.”

Chancellor Henry Yong of the Yosemite Community College District said the workforce training promises a brighter future for families, contributes to the local economy and will expand the tax base for supporting public services.

Partners in the VOLT Institute plan to tailor training programs for skills in demand in the labor market. The center could branch into "mechatronics" or training workers to maintain automated machinery. MJC is looking to offer training in the building trades at the VOLT center, including a program to construct tiny houses for the homeless.

Dave White, chief executive officer of Opportunity Stanislaus, said the state money will be used as matching dollars for a $2 million federal grant for expansion of MJC vocational training and the VOLT Institute.

White ran point to help Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, to get the funding into the state budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Three years ago, I secured $1 million in funding from the state budget for the University of California to study a medical school at its Merced campus. My goal was to highlight the dramatic disparities in access to care for residents of Merced County and reinvigorate the conversations around developing a medical school.

The UC’s report, “Improving Health Care Access in the San Joaquin Valley,” is now completed and details numerous health challenges faced by residents of the San Joaquin Valley along with a number of recommendations to improve access to care. A companion report, “Current and Future Health Professions Workforce Needs in the San Joaquin Valley,” includes statistics on healthcare workforce shortages.

Friday, June 1, 2018

ABC30 recently reported on Asm. Gray's efforts to establish a medical school in our region:

By Nathalie Granda

Thursday, May 31, 2018 06:52PM

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) --

Monday, March 26, 2018

As published in: Westside Connect

Never apologize for being a farmer

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2018 11:09 am

BY ADAM GRAY/21st DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE

As someone who was born and raised in the Valley, the economic and social values of agriculture are part of who I am. Accountability for our actions is part of our way of life. If you don’t work hard, you don’t get paid. It’s as simple as that.

Unfortunately, folks in Sacramento don’t always remember the rules of the game. They demonize successful farmers as “Big Ag.” They claim we waste water, forgetting that irrigation is what puts food on their tables. That’s not waste – it’s hard work.

They want us to make sacrifices they would never ask of other industries, and they want us to make them without any of the help they provide to other industries. When Hollywood started filming more of its movies outside of California, the Legislature provided hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of incentives to bring them back.

I once asked if we could do something similar for the dairy industry, which is being forced to either consolidate or leave the state. My proposal went nowhere.

Farmers in the Valley know the truth, but even we are guilty of sometimes buying into Sacramento’s untrue narrative. When now-Senator Kamala Harris was running for office, she came to Modesto to meet and discuss agricultural issues at a round-table forum. As local farmers introduced themselves, each one qualified their success by referring to their operations as “small, family farms” even though many were large operations.

When it was my turn, I felt compelled to share an observation with the Senator: Valley farmers feel the need to apologize for their success. Surely, major companies in the Bay Area are not referring to themselves as “small, family tech firms.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

As excerpted from: The Los Angeles Times

Californians appointed to state posts could soon be barred from writing checks to lawmakers who vote on their nomination

Last year, [Lucy] Dunn, the president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, was confirmed for a third term on the influential transportation panel. Three months later she contributed to a political campaign for the current Senate leader, Kevin De León.

Dunn's contributions are allowed by state law, but some believe such payments undermine public confidence in the appointment process. That concern is behind a new proposal by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) to outlaw contributions to senators by political appointees for up to a year between the time they are chosen by the governor until their required confirmation by the Senate.

"The state Legislature should safeguard the public's confidence in our government institutions," said Gray, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization.

"We have adopted a number of limitations and transparency measures in other areas, but the contribution activities of political appointees — who have a personal financial interest at stake — to state senators during the confirmation process remains almost entirely opaque," Gray added.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

As excerpted from: The Modesto Bee

Stanislaus County leaders OK low-barrier shelter, plus a bold plan to help the homeless

BY KEN CARLSON

February 27, 2018 04:05 PM

County supervisors discussed a broader plan Tuesday developed by representatives of business, nonprofit groups, the faith community, local government and a consulting firm that's donating time to the initiative.

The county will begin a process of finding a location for a 60-bed permanent access center for the homeless, offering services such as case management, substance abuse and mental health services and assistance with legal issues, employment training and job search. In the cold winter months, the center will also direct the homeless to available beds in local shelters.

The permanent center will replace the temporary low-barrier shelter, which would be operated under a three-year nonrenewable lease.

Supervisors gave approval to distribute $2.5 million in state funding secured by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, to the United Way for operating the low-barrier shelter for three years. The Stanislaus Community Foundation has pledged $1 million for building the shelter.

Local groups participating in the permanent access center will need a financing plan for operation and maintenance. Funding could come from private donors, grants and other sources.

David Crotty, senior vice president of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, the Bay Area design firm providing pro bono services to the county, said he believes the plan can be successful in reducing homelessness.

"Some people say this is impossible," Crotty said. "It is, of course, impossible if you don't try."

Friday, February 16, 2018
As excerpted from the Modesto Bee:

How Modesto’s homeless could find a home in converted shipping containers

BY KEVIN VALINE

Focus on Prevention Leadership Council Chairman Brad Hawn provided an overview of the project:

He said the shelter will be constructed out of converted shipping containers. He said the 40-foot-by-8-foot containers will have four bedrooms, each with its own door, window, air conditioning and heating unit, and fire sprinklers. Interior walls will separate the bedrooms.

Hawn said nonprofits would play a big role in the project. He said one would serve as the fiscal agent for the project and lease the land from Stanislaus Food Products. The nonprofit — which he declined to name — would hire another nonprofit to operate the shelter and day center.

The Stanislaus Community Foundation has committed $1 million toward building the center and day center. The money would be from the $1.4 million the foundation received last year from local business leaders to further the aims of Focus on Prevention.

And the Board of Supervisors would be asked to commit $2.5 million to cover three years’ of the project’s operating costs (that does not include the outreach and engagement center). The $2.5 million is what Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, helped secure in this year’s state budget for Stanislaus County to tackle homelessness.

Modesto is not providing funding, but Hawn said the project will rely on the police department for help if problems or concerns develop with the shelter and day center.