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Training & Education
Friday | 05 February, 2010 | 9:37 am

In the know

By John Loos

February 2010- Work training is often thought of as something done the first week on the job. But in the manufacturing world, smart companies know that to add value to their products and market position, they must add value to their workforce.

For more than 10 years, the CCC Workforce Institute, Chicago, part of the City Colleges of Chicago, has been designing, developing and delivering high-quality training programs to a variety of industries, including health care, hospitality, construction, service, transportation, distribution and logistics.

Manufacturing, however, is a particularly strong focus for the institute because the training manufacturers need encompasses employees of all experience and skill levels. Types of training can include OSHA or Six Sigma certification, English as a Second Language, Lean Enterprise, and new technology training, among others.

"In manufacturing, typically, you really have a pretty good gamut of workforce," says Christopher Wilkerson, vice president of the Workforce Institute. "You've got people who don't have high school degrees who haven't gotten any skills training before, you have high school graduates who are looking for the next step, you've got front-line employees who have been with the organization for years and years and may know the business in and out but have not yet received any new techniques or some of the latest and greatest communication tools.

"Many of the employers that we work with are 100-employee, 200-employee businesses," he continues. "The skill sets of employees need to continuously improve to maintain the quality of the production process and equipment upgrades."

Custom courses
Last year, the Workforce Institute delivered nearly 500 training courses, each averaging about 16 hours. Each course was customized to fit individual company needs and built on proven techniques.

"Every course is evaluated on its curriculum, instruction, [and] content, so we take a look at those evaluations after each course," says Wilkerson, adding that employee and employer feedback helps guide future training programs.

Because programs generally run nine months to a year, evaluation may begin as early as the seventh month, meaning the Workforce Institute is "bringing in the team of business development folks to see where we are in the process, what new developments have occurred and what the next training components should be," says Wilkerson. "Subject-matter experts or the instructors that are typically in the courses and delivering the courses are also the face of the Workforce Institute while they're delivering the training. If there are other things they see that can be added to the list of potential training programs moving forward, we add them."

Before courses are implemented, the Workforce Institute evaluates training costs and the potential return on investment to ensure the training will financially benefit the company. According to Wilkerson, the Workforce Institute has "great relationships" with its funding sources and might be able find grant funding for a company to help offset course cost.

Ultimately, a company can choose to train its employees in-house, which might be necessary for company-specific application training. However, as Wilkerson mentions, using a proven and thorough resource, such as the Workforce Institute ensures employees on all levels are receiving the training needed to continue making their company successful.

"The key thing here is the individuals who are receiving the training are getting the highest-quality training possible at an affordable price," says Wilkerson. "That's one of the things that we offer: training by an industry-certified instructor who has practical experience and training experience and who is audited and graded every year. Additionally, participants can use this training as a precursor to college-level courses. In some cases, credit is awarded upon successful completion."

"That's something that makes us different from a single trainer who knows safety training, for example," says Kyle Clauss, business development representative for the Workforce Institute. "We can bring the whole gamut to the table. If the front-end needs leadership training and the back-end needs safety, we can help the entire staff by providing an all-inclusive training program." MM

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