One key to building a successful workplace training program is collaboration among industry, government agencies and schools, said several panelists at a recent worker-training forum in Washington.
Injection molder Precise Technology Inc., for example, found that working with trade associations and governments let it leverage more resources than it otherwise could. The company garnered at least $180,000 in state money and trained more than 300 people, according to W. David Outlaw, corporate director of training and resource development for Precise of North Versailles, Pa.
Other panel speakers at the March 4 forum noted that governments, schools and companies have been working on plastics-related training programs in central Pennsylvania, as part of the state's Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative. That effort is using $1.35 million in federal funding for training in the plastics, food, cabinet-making and powdered-metal industries.
That collaborative - formed with the help of the Plastics Manufacturing Center at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa., and the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corp. - recently surveyed plastics companies in the state to determine their needs, said PMC director Hank White.
Outlaw noted that partnering with local agencies can help firms navigate the sometimes-contradictory rules states use in doling out training. Precise used training programs developed by the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. as the centerpiece of its own efforts, he said.
Companies also have to work on how they present training programs to employees, said Outlaw, who is based in Precise's St. Petersburg, Fla., office. The programs should be voluntary, free and sold to employees as an opportunity for self-improvement, he said.
Outlaw said Precise learned lessons along the way, such as an awareness that some employees find skill tests intimidating because of language barriers or fears about exams. Plus, when some employees hear the word ``test,'' they fear their jobs are in jeopardy.
``When we told employees [at the Buffalo Grove, Ill., plant] that we were going to test them, we just about had a riot,'' Outlaw said. ``People thought they were going to lose their jobs.''
The forum on worker training was part of the National Association of Workforce Boards' annual conference in Washington.