Belmont, N.C. — Greg Botner runs a $260 million plastics company. He needs an educated workforce. And he needs more workers every year given the company's growth. His solution? Start his own “university.” Naturally.
Welcome to Wilbert U, an outgrowth of Wilbert Plastic Services Inc. Through August, Wilbert U has issued more than 2,400 certificates to 1,000 employees at all nine of the company's U.S. locations. From Six Sigma to scientific molding, Botner is training his team for today and tomorrow.
“The point is we need an engaged and competently trained workforce. And people want to be engaged in something other than the task of just doing their job,” said Botner, Wilbert's CEO and president. “The way we have found to do that is we've built an extensive training program. We are up to 12 different subject matters and 50 different courses online, in the classroom and onsite.”
The carrot for the employees is that compensation is directly tied to successful course completion. If employees want to be a quality auditor or material handler, they have to go through the proper training. Also, gone are days of automatic hourly pay increases after 180 days, for example, said Botner, 60, who took the top job at privately owned Wilbert in 2008.
In addition to Wilbert U, Botner this year will launch Fast Track, a program that helps employees identify a way to become a process engineer, process technician or department manager, for example.
“We identify a path of courses that is required for that person to make themselves eligible for that type of position. The whole idea is to give people a career path within the company so they can move to a livable and sustainable income level for themselves,” Botner said.
He credits Heath Garrett, Wilbert's director of manufacturing excellence, for pushing the senior management team to adopt Wilbert U and Fast Track. Botner said three Wilbert employees, including Amelia Keown, corporate training director, devote 100 percent of their time to the training programs.