The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
SAN MATEO — Steve Arionus was among those who lost their assembly-line jobs when the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. auto plant in Fremont closed last year.
He’s now searching for a new career and has enrolled in the electronics program at College of San Mateo.
“I hope to get into one of the utilities or water-sewage treatment companies,” said Arionus, 46. “I’m trying to update my skills to what they’re needing.”
The electronics program has also been getting an upgrade to help more students like Arionus.
A $448,000 grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has renovated an electronics lab to accommodate additional students in the program and enhance instruction.
The renovation brings new workstations, computers and other equipment, said Kathleen Ross, dean of business and technology at CSM.
Currently, the program has about 75 students. But starting in the fall semester, Ross said, the improved lab will allow the program to serve twice as many students.
Students will be able to work at their own individual stations and move about comfortably without crossing over each other or running into cables, CSM electronics professor Roy Brixen said.
The improvements will bolster the training of those pursuing jobs in the utility or alternative-energy industries, Ross said.
“The demand for the program is so high” that Ross needed another advanced lab, she added. The other advanced lab was renovated a few years ago while a third is for entry-level classes. The industries needing workers with high-caliber electrical skills can’t find enough of them, Brixen said.
The program — which involves a partnership with PG&E, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the East Bay Municipal Utility District — seeks to fill that need, he said.
The program’s graduates can look forward to a job with a starting salary between $45,000 and $60,000 depending on the industry, he said. That pay can double after about five years of experience.
“It’s going to be very beneficial to the students,” Arionus said of the rejuvenated program. “It will open up more opportunities for people if they’re willing to take it.”
Contact Neil Gonzales at (650) 348-4338.