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Posted on: August 16, 2021

Yuba Water and Yuba College partnership brings real-world experience to local students

Two men talk to each other in a machine shop.

When Hydro Mechanical Engineer Aaron Esselman took classes at Yuba College in 2011, he was simply filling the requirements to transfer to a California State University. Ten years later, he’s back at Yuba College, this time working with students and staff at the college’s machine shop as a hydro mechanical engineer with Yuba Water Agency.

Yuba Water began partnering with Yuba College in 2018 after Esselman, who was familiar with the capabilities of the college’s machine shop from his time there, suggested the shop might be a good fit for fabricating non-mission-critical parts for the agency’s hydropower facilities.

“Yuba Water’s facilities have a lot of specialized machine parts that can be cost-prohibitive for your typical commercial vendor to produce,” Esselman said. “A partnership with Yuba College is a natural fit because it allows us to secure parts quickly and efficiently while also helping students see how their work fits into real-world jobs.”

Yuba College faculty Joe Bauer and Dan Turner, both instructors at the machine shop, agree that the collaboration between Yuba Water and Yuba College is a “win-win” for students and the agency.

“A lot of people may not realize that Yuba College has a multi-million-dollar machine shop,” Turner said. “The equipment we have here not only allows us to fabricate really precise parts for organizations like Yuba Water, it also gives students valuable programming, machining and welding experience...skills that are very much in-demand right now.”

When Yuba Water contracts Yuba College for a project, engineers like Esselman send a 3D computer-aided design, called CAD, to Yuba College. Under the direction of Bauer and Turner, students use the CAD file to program a machine to fabricate the part. The CAD process is widely used in engineering, manufacturing and other industries.

Most recently, Esselman worked with the shop to fabricate a dogging device – a small metal part that helps secure latches on doors and gates – that was installed at Yuba Water’s facilities. Additional parts include survey targets, custom flanges and taper pins.

According to Turner, the college’s welding and manufacturing technology program helps students build a strong educational foundation and also provides ample opportunities for students to practice skills needed to secure stable, high-paying jobs in a range of industries.

“If you look around the shop, we’re all from different backgrounds and different jobs, but we’ve all had that one “ah-hah” moment where you realize...every single thing in our world at one point has been impacted by welding and machining,” Turner said. “Whether you’re crossing a bridge or using a toaster, you are using something that has been manufactured and directly influenced by a machinist or welder.”

One recent success story from the shop is welding major Adan Salazar. Salazar began taking welding classes at Yuba College as a high school student at Yuba County Career Preparatory Charter School. He later got involved with Yuba College’s welding camp for prospective welding students, which taught him the basics of welding and encouraged him to compete in the Welding Olympics with his high school team. He was recently offered a full-time job with our local 228 Plumbers & Pipefitters union.

Yuba College encourages students to enroll as in-person learning returns this fall 

Like many educational institutions, Yuba College’s machine and welding courses were heavily impacted by COVID-19 last year. Fortunately, students are now able to resume in-person shop activities as long as they follow local COVID-19 guidelines, which include wearing masks in some areas and spacing out workstations.

The program welcomes students who are pursuing associates degrees and certificates, as well as those interested in taking single classes as professional development.

“There is plenty of room in our machining classes and technical drawing with AutoCAD course, though our welding classes are filling up quickly,” Bauer stated. “The time is now to enroll in our fall semester courses.”

Students can apply and enroll in courses on Yuba College’s website.

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