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Business, industry look to customized workforce development training solutions

The Washington State Community College (WSCC) Workforce Development program is changing the way employers train incumbent workers. Businesses can now work directly with the college to design a tailor-made training program that develops worker competencies specific to their industry.

The changing landscape of business and industry means that turnkey training is no longer the best fit. Issues with specialized training in advanced manufacturing were among key discussions at a meeting of the Appalachian Ohio Manufacturers’ Coalition earlier this year. Jesse Roush, meeting attendee and executive director of workforce development and corporate partnerships at WSCC, said these leaders expressed the need for not only highly skilled workers, but the need for very specific skillsets unique to their processes and technology.

WSCC is working with area businesses to advance the skills of incumbent workers by providing highly customized training programs, including apprenticeships, which bolster skillsets relevant to each client’s specific requirements. “It starts with understanding your needs as an employer. We work with you closely to craft the perfect training components so both employer and employee derive value from the creative solutions we develop,” Roush detailed.

He explained that traditional incumbent worker training often takes a “multi-craft” approach. While it provides a solid foundation, manufacturers require specialized skills. “What we are offering is different from other local programs who feature traditional multi-craft delivery models. Our custom-developed training is often designed to meet very specific needs,” Roush emphasized. “Developing specialized delivery models is where we stand out from other training programs. If you want to develop a training program specific to a technical occupation at your business, that’s what we specialize in doing here at WSCC.”

The college is working with several local manufacturing facilities, including Solvay and Magnum Magnetics. Most recently, maintenance mechanics from Solvay participated in a four-week customized troubleshooting course and a customized short course in drawings & prints, as well as an OSHA 30 – General Industry course. Magnum Magnetics mechanics are taking a customized 8-week course in advanced programmable logic controller (PLC) troubleshooting that incorporates multiple brands of PLC equipment. All of these courses are delivered in a format that meets a variety of employer needs.

The training provided by Washington State is designed to develop specific competencies that achieve the necessary outcomes required by their employers. “These mechanics don’t need the same type of training a recent high school graduate might need. We work with the employer to identify the right training modules for each course, and then we tailor the entire program specifically to what’s expected of their employees,” Roush elaborated.

“Our Maintenance Supervisors and Training/Compliance team worked with WSCC to develop the program based on specific needs and determined the courses, lab, and on the job training that meets the outcomes we seek,” confirmed Sherri Becker, training and development coordinator at Solvay Specialty Polymers, LLC. in Marietta. “For Solvay, the short-term benefits include immediate entry into training that impacts and supports performance. Long-term benefits will include a strong workforce knowledge base with a shared vision toward the importance of advancing core skills into complex workplace demands,” suggested Becker.

Becker speculated that the value of this program is vast in its reach, providing service to a multitude of industries and ultimately benefiting the entire Mid-Ohio Valley. “A major impact this program brings to the region is preparation of the workforce to support the demands of the shale gas development opportunities related to job skills and industry growth,” she affirmed. “Through gaining and applying knowledge and understanding to hands-on experiences in labs, combined with work-related experiences designed in this Apprenticeship Program; the strength of a safe, effective regional workforce is being developed. This type of documented workforce is a key element to attracting business and industry development in our region,” she concluded.

While WSCC continues to develop more tailored training programs for area business, the college will offer a free general-industry training course at the beginning of next year. Through the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s short-term certificate grant, businesses can enroll their incumbent employees in the OSHA 30 – General Industry credentialing class. While the class is provided at no charge, Roush said there are a limited number of seats available.

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