Job-training program proves it matters

By Mike Bennett

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Derek Dixon (from right), Jessica Sears and Eric Matthews get hands-on during class.  (Photo by Dave Eggen)

Manufacturing Matters is more than a program connecting education and industry with newly trained employees.

It’s a lifeline to a better future for dozens who want a steady full-time job and a chance to make a difference for themselves and their families.

It’s a pipeline for employers that need skilled and motivated workers in Wayne County and Eastern Indiana.

In other words, it’s a win-win-win for everyone involved — the students, the manufacturers and their communities. The classes are free for the students (through scholarships) once they pass the tests to be accepted into the program.

Ivy Tech’s Corporate College runs the courses. “We are vetting them,”  said Kim Thurlow, leader of Corporate College. “We figure out here (whether they can work out). We’re qualifying people.”

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Andre Tevis often arrives for the Manufacturing Matters night class more than an hour early for computer work.  (Photo by Dave Eggen)

By qualifying students and matching them with eager employers, the job-training program truly does matter.

The first 12 students that passed the course have all gained a level of certification with a majority receiving designation as a Certified Production Technician. While jobs aren’t guaranteed, students earn fast-track consideration from corporate partners with Manufacturing Matters.

The success has been obvious: Ten of the graduates now work for partners that include: Color-Box, Emerson Climate Technologies, GE Roots Connersville, Johns Manville, Mosey Manufacturing Company, Primex Plastics Corporation, Richmond Baking Company, Stant USA Corporation, Trane/Ingersoll Rand and Vandor Corporation. While not a partner, Berry Plastics Corporation has also benefited from the program by hiring a Manufacturing Matters graduate.

WorkOne interviews and tests the prospective students. The program includes training in safety, quality and measurement, manufacturing production and maintenance awareness.

The first program brought more than learning. It touched students on a personal level, Thurlow said. “The first group was really into it. Everyone was engaged,” she said. “The first one really pulled at our heartstrings. They were a fun group.”

The second Manufacturing Matters group, which includes a day and evening session, is nearing graduation. The members have certainly been engaged and working hard, said program manager Ron Puckett.

Many of the new students  are quick to say why it matters to them on a personal level.

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Chris Becker is positive about Richmond’s future. (Photo by Dave Eggen)

Andre Tevis says: “This is one avenue I’m following to better myself, to educate myself.”

Jessica Sears: “I just want to better my life for my children. I want to understand manufacturing more.”

Derek Dixon: “This will allow me to find a better job and have more structure. I have four kids and want to get my own house.”

Eric Matthews: “I am gaining knowledge that will take me into the 21st Century. I want to be real productive. The class is great.”

Successful students get a leg up in in the application process. “We accept Manufacturing Matters (graduates) first. You are a priority,” the night-class students were told during a visit by Paula Nuzzi, human relations manager at Trane/Ingersoll Rand in Rushville.

She was quick to point out that the site is hiring now and will be hiring more in the future. The plant started with seven employees and now has 130.

Those employees include one graduate of the first Manufacturing Matters class.

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Paula Nuzzi, human relations manager at Trane/Ingersoll Rand in Rushville, speaks to the  class at Ivy Tech. (Photo by Dave Eggen)

Nuzzi said Trane/Ingersoll Rand needs to develop skilled local workers to maintain its high-tech machinery in the commercial air-conditioning business. “The only people who work on them (now) are from Italy,” she said.

The high-tech needs are similar for the manufacturers located in Richmond and Wayne County.

The Manufacturing Matters curriculum is tough. The 11 students in the evening class spend three four-hour sessions a week with instructor Charles King at Ivy Tech and then take part in another session at WorkOne. There, the students are taught employability skills, such as work ethics, attendance, teamwork and conflict resolution. The WorkOne session also focuses on resume writing and interviewing, said Acacia St. John, manager for Wayne, Fayette and Union counties.

“WorkOne is pleased with the outcomes we see from this program,” St. John said.

Those outcomes, she said, include “customers that have committed to the program, that have completed items they never thought they could do.

“(It’s great) to see them build confidence daily and, most importantly, get a good-paying job that helps them and their families financially,” St. John said.

“It’s not easy,” Sears said. “It’s a lot of reading and comprehending.”

It’s also a lot of computer time and hands-on experiences in a lab at Ivy Tech.

The students can identify with instructor King, who offers a relaxed style. He still works at Nixon Tool Co. in Richmond and is a graduate of Ivy Tech. “People here are being trained to replace people who are getting old like me,” he joked.

The students are treated just like any manufacturing employee punching in on a time clock. There are consequences for missing a class or an assignment. They must be there on time.

That’s no problem for Tevis. “He’s in here at 4 and the class starts at 5:30,” said Puckett as he watched Tevis stare intently into a computer screen. “He’s in here working, putting in his time.”

Tevis dreams of working in a medical field. “I am enjoying the program,” he said.

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Charles King speaks to the Manufacturing Matters class. (Photo by Dave Eggen)

So is Chris Becker, who owned a cabinet business in Frankfort before moving to Richmond.

He aims for a steady job in high-tech maintenance at a corporation. He is high on the potential here for success: “Richmond is a perfect place for a business to be.”

Richmond also is perfect for another new resident — and new graduate of Manufacturing Matters. Wilmi Vizcaino heard about the class over the radio and rushed to sign up for it soon after moving here to be with his wife, Trisha, who is from Richmond.

He already had a two-year degree in manufacturing technology from a school in his native country, the Dominican Republic.

“The teachers were very competent and challenging,” he said about the Manufacturing Matters program. “People treated us very good. They have a commitment for the program.”

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Wilmi Vizcaino enjoys his job at Primex Plastics. (photo by Dave Eggen)

He is committed to moving up at Primex Plastics — where he works in quality control — and getting more education in organizational leadership and supervision. “These people have treated me well at Primex,” he said.

His skills in speaking English and Spanish come in handy there. “Having another language helps me. It makes the interaction better,” he said.

Vizcaino said he started feeling at home quickly after he met his wife through the Internet and made the decision to move here.  Soon after, he heard the radio announcement about Manufacturing Matters. “I won’t forget 2013 in an amazing way,” he said. “I feel blessed.”

Manufacturing Matters is funded with the help of Duke Energy, the Economic Growth Group, Wayne County Foundation, Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County. Learn more about the program or apply by visiting manufacturingmatters.info.


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