Hartnell student and Marine Corps veteran Abraham Lopez trains in the mechatronics lab. The college is offering free courses in agricultural technology and paid on-the-job training for all members of the Monterey Bay-area military community. (Contributed)

SALINAS VALLEY — Hartnell College and its partner, the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, are reaching out to veterans and family members with an immediate opportunity for free courses in agricultural technology and paid on-the-job training at some of the largest Salinas Valley ag companies.

The registration deadline is Feb. 5, and interested individuals can learn more at hartnell.edu/academics-affairs/academics/cte/metallicascholars/.

The offer to all members of the Monterey Bay-area military community is an expansion of the Metallica Scholars program launched last fall with students who began studying diesel technology after being referred by the Veterans Transition Center in Marina.

The effort is funded through a $100,000 grant from the All Within Our Hands Foundation, created and funded by the heavy-metal band Metallica to support technical education.

Veterans and their dependents will complete six hours of course credit at the Agricultural Business Technology Institute on Hartnell’s Alisal Campus starting now and continuing through early May. 

Although participants are not required to complete a certificate or degree, the credits can be applied to earning those academic credentials.

Available subject areas are: agriculture/business, agriculture/food safety, plant science, advanced automotive technology, advanced diesel technology, plant science, manufacturing (including robotics and mechatronics) and welding.

In addition to free tuition and two days a week of paid training, participants will also receive up to $2,300 in basic tools for their respective trade.

The grant is part of the Metallica Scholars Initiative by the All Within My Hands foundation, which supports Hartnell’s efforts to prepare veterans for careers in Salinas Valley agriculture and place them in jobs. The nationwide initiative involves a total of 23 U.S. community and technical colleges and is led by the American Association of Community Colleges.

As Metallica Scholars, the experience and success of these students will be showcased to promote varying skilled trade pathways as a means to economic development.

Participating employers in the Grower-Shipper Association (GSA) include Taylor Farms, Tanimura & Antle, Automated Harvesting LLC, Dole Fresh Vegetables and Braga Fresh, and others may come on board in the future.

Christopher Valadez, GSA president, said the companies all understand that the new partnership with Hartnell is an unprecedented opportunity to tap local veterans as a valuable new source of prospective workers.

Veterans, whatever their particular military background, typically have abilities that can be adapted to the complex demands of the agricultural industry, he said.

“They have experience and skills from being able to work under pressure, being able to plan, to see logistics connections — this whole world surrounding the rigors of military training,” Valadez said. “There’s a whole set of skills there that aligns really well with the needs of multifaceted employers.”

For more information, contact Hartnell program assistant Celia Anderson at 831-755-6798 or [email protected].

Article submitted by Scott Faust, Communications Director for Hartnell College.

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