Amazon’s Patterson Fulfillment Center recently announced a new partnership with the local school district that will guarantee full-time jobs to graduates of Patterson High School’s business logistics career pathway.

“We feel it is a win for us and a win for the school district and a win for those students,” Dan Fay, general manager of the Patterson fulfillment center, said. “It’s a great opportunity (for the graduates) to start their careers working in the warehouse, learning, and then taking advantage of all of our benefit programs that we have to offer.”

Fay approached the Patterson Joint Unified School District about forming the partnership after hearing about the logistics program it offers local high schoolers. “It occurred to me that these are students in this community that live here locally that are learning the skills that we value, that are a perfect match for the things that we do in our fulfillment center,” he said.

Amazon’s local warehouse will hire up to 10 graduating students a year, who will be eligible to take advantage of the company’s Career Choice Program for tuition assistance after 12 months of employment. Each student must meet current hiring requirements for Amazon employees, have a track record of good attendance and submit a recommendation from school leadership identifying them as a top performer in the business logistics program.

“These are what we believe are very good jobs for these folks and this community,” Fay said, adding that the jobs are full-time, associate positions with the company that include a full health benefits package, which goes into effect on the employee’s first day at work.

The Career Choice Program covers up to 95 percent, or $3,000, of an employee’s tuition and books for up to four years should they choose to work towards an associate degree or certificate in what Amazon feels is a high-paying, in-demand occupation. These occupations and fields are classified as high growth by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, said Ashley Robinson, Amazon spokesperson.

“We know that a lot of our students will work and need to work when they go to school, so this is a perfect opportunity,” Patterson Unified Superintendent Phil Alfano said. “They exit (high school) with certification that they can use in the industry where they’re interested in having a career.”

Alfano added that the district’s partnership with Modesto Junior College will allow many of the logistics pathway graduates who utilize Amazon’s tuition assistance to work towards their degree of choice with classes offered by the community college here in Patterson. “It doesn’t get any better than that in terms of alignment,” he said.

Patterson’s fulfillment center identified eight students in the class of 2015 who meet their hiring criteria. Four have already applied, and Fay has reached out to the other four and expects them to apply as soon as they turn 18.

Jaime Sanchez, 18, is one of those eight students, and he just attended an Amazon hiring event Tuesday. “I feel like I got a great opportunity,” he said, referring to the fulfillment center’s commitment to hiring local students. “I feel very lucky.”

Sanchez said that being a part of the business logistics pathway was an informative and fun experience. “We learned a lot about the whole supply chain and what it takes to work in the logistics environment,” he said.

The 18-year-old plans on using Amazon’s Career Choice Program when it becomes available to him and is currently looking at majoring in business administration at California State University, Stanislaus.

Amazon and Patterson Unified’s partnership is something new for the company, which hopes to replicate the program in other communities that house fulfillment centers.

“The logistics program that is created at the high school is one of the first in the state, so it’s been really cool not just from a community development perspective, but from a corporate perspective; for us to help be on the ground floor of this innovative program has just been really rewarding for all parties involved,” Robinson said.

“We’re using this almost as a pilot program,” she continued. “I’ve already gotten interest from other general managers saying, ‘How can we do this in our community?’ Dan’s been really innovative in looking for new ways to generate long-term professional development and use communities where we have our fulfillment centers.”

Alfano said that it is exciting to have Patterson Unified students be the first to benefit from a partnership like this. “We’re confident that as the (logistics) program grows there will easily be 10 that can take advantage of it each year,” he said. “There are employee shortages in that field right now, so it won’t just be Amazon. I think others will look at that model and say, ‘Hey, this is something we’d like to partner with as well.’ ”

Nathan Duckworth can be reached at 892-6187 ext. 307 or nathan@pattersonirrigator.com.

PI copy editor and education, arts reporter.

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