Trinchero Family Estates Hosts Robotics Students and Teachers

30 Napa Valley students and educators learn how science and technology in the classroom relate to modern manufacturing in the wine industry

Pat Haines, Director, Marketing
Published on March 1, 2018

In January, NapaLearns organized a visit to Trinchero Family Estates who hosted more than 30 robotics and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students and teachers from the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) at its manufacturing facility in Lodi, CA. As a world leader in Napa Valley winemaking, the company sees a need to invest in the education of its future workforce. It provided this opportunity to the students so that they and their teachers could see future careers available in the wine industry and be ready to fill those positions.

Technology’s impact on winemaking

Like all industries, technology has fundamentally changed the way wine is made, distributed, and marketed. The Trinchero Family Estates manufacturing facility depends on individuals who can program, operate, and maintain highly technical equipment. Its Lodi manufacturing facility alone produces 18 million cases per year with the capacity of producing more than 26 million. New capabilities are continually installed to produce and sustain the high quality of its wines at the speed the market demands.

But that’s not all Trinchero is looking for in future employees. In addition, to being able to invent, maintain, and sustain the technologies commonly used in the workplace, they want teachers to impart the so-called “soft skills” that employees need to be successful. As students increasingly find themselves competing with robots — and no longer only on routine tasks and low-skill jobs — teachers need to focus on the skills and competencies that have been central to the success of workers in the first place: creativity, problem-solving, negotiation, adaptability, critical thinking, working together, empathy and emotions, and cross-cultural communication.

The students and teachers were excited to see robotics and programming in a real-world situation. Many of students in the robotics course have their sights set on mechanical engineering and robotics careers, and many others haven’t decided yet what they are going to do. Trinchero Family Estates provided an the occasion that inspired and helped students to re-imagine their career paths here in Napa Valley.

Students visit lab

Why it’s important for students and teachers to partner with local businesses

Many jobs open now — and even more in the future — require engineering and computing skills. Students in middle school and high school have worked hard and they are ready to see what they are working towards. They have enough knowledge at this point in their education to understand how it all comes together. Exposure to work situations helps them to gain and sustain the long term drive required to stay with their education.

Furthermore, teachers need to see what today’s careers are demanding in the workplace. There should be a strong emphasis on aligning curriculum with career-readiness standards. Not only must teachers help prepare students for the future, but also administrators, including principals, superintendents and school boards, must be supportive through policy implementation and community partnerships. Field trips like the one to Trinchero connect educators with business leaders to better understand the transition from the school environment to the work environment.

The teachers on the trip readily admitted how surprised they were by the breadth of Trinchero’s operations. The facility is like an Amazon distribution warehouse; it’s incredibly efficient, with high-speed manufacturing, robots and autonomous vehicles transporting wine to and from trucks. The students and teachers also visited the lab to see how biology and chemistry are applied to test the wines. Overall, the visit was a way to see the connection between classroom science and its application in the real-world.

Kent Mann, vice president of operations at Trinchero Family Estates summed it up nicely, “We hope the students came away understanding the complexity it takes to deliver wine to our customers — from chemistry and biology monitors that ensure the quality of the wine, to programming and robotics to keep the line moving.
We applaud the work that NapaLearns is doing to expand the C-STEM robotics program into more of our schools and to expose students to the careers that are open here. We are proud to use the best equipment and hire the best people. Approximately 90% of that equipment comes from outside of Napa Valley. Let’s not have 90% of our employees come from outside, too.”
Kent Mann answers student questions