PATTERSON, Calif. — As supply chain issues cause store shelves to suddenly become empty, the long term solution to labor may come from a school on the west side of Stanislaus County.
For the past ten years, Patterson High School has had classes designed specifically for those who want a vocational career, bypassing the four-year time period to get a college degree.
"They're coming out of high school with our industry partners wanting to hire us full-time -- benefits, medical, dental, 401k," says Larry Garcia, who teaches Introduction to Logistics and Fork Lift Safety Training.
Outside on a small, fenced, concrete surface, several students got behind the wheel of forklifts under the watchful eye of Garcia.
"We're trying to be proactive (rather) than reactive to the situation," Garcia said, referring to the ongoing supply chain bottleneck.
Patterson Joint Unified School District Superintendent Phil Alfano created the vocational program as a pathway for students who prefer a career that doesn't necessitate a college degree.
17-year-old Felipe Cervantes is a senior who is taking the fork lift course.
"It's not just college that can make you successful, but other things," Cervantes said.
There is also a "Commercial Truck Driving" class.
While students don't drive a big rig on campus, they do learn all the in's and out's of what it takes to be a truck driver.
If they enjoy the course, they can take the next step when they turn eighteen and enroll in a truck driving school.
"How do we feed the pipeline? And that's one reason these programs are so important is to create that sustainable pipeline of young, new talent," said Dave Dein, the CDL Truck Driving Coordinator/Instructor.
He is a former trucker and elementary school teacher. He used truck driving as a way to fund his college education, which took him eight years to complete.
He says he has had some students who felt they had no future, but took his course and became truck drivers, changing their lives forever.
17-year-old Savannah Martinez wants to use her trucker class skills as a stepping stone to become a psychiatrist.
"I feel that it will actually help to pay for college, because college is expensive," Martinez said.
If that's not enough, the school also has its own realistic logistics warehouse.
"We teach them the fundamentals of a warehouse which is receiving, put away, picking and shipping. So we basically teach them the keys for any distribution center," says Leah Sheets, who teaches Career Technical Education and helps supervise students in the warehouse.
"100% of these students that apply for these jobs get jobs because these companies are part of our advisory group. They know what we are putting our students through," says Glenn Ecalne, Patterson High School business teacher.
Ecalne brings a wealth of experience to the program having worked for Home Depot, Amazon, Kohl's and Wells Fargo.
Over the years, many other schools from across the country have wanted to duplicate the Patterson program.
With supply chain issues across the country, the program is getting much more attention.
Instructors say their students are so much in demand, that big companies like Amazon and Restoration Hardware hire them many times on the spot once they graduate from the Patterson program.