When it comes to manufacturing, down time is revenue lost. Something as simple as a blown fuse due to a poorly working motor can bring production to a complete halt. To avoid such misfortune, skilled technicians need to be able to do preventative maintenance, troubleshoot, and tackle other maintenance issues. The new Industrial Maintenance certification at NCC has been designed to specifically train employees in Northwest Iowa how to be proactive to avoid pitfalls in manufacturing, food, and biofuels processing industries.
“When we would go out and connect with business partners in our manufacturing sector, the lack of employees capable of such skills was a common theme,” shares Jason Anderson, Director of Workforce and Economic Development at NCC. “That’s where the beauty of the community college system comes in…customized training to help our workforce is what we do.”
Anderson did extensive research with industry partners and other educational entities to see what training at NCC might look like. The program needed to be concise because, in many cases, students would be sent to training at NCC through their current employer, meaning they would be away from their usual daily tasks at work. Furthermore, with many aspects of preventative and reactive maintenance available to teach, focusing in on a few would be challenging, but necessary.
Ultimately, the program was created to be a non-credit certification that can hold a maximum of six students. Within the roughly 200-hour training, half is focused on different aspects of electrical troubleshooting and basic knowledge, and the other half relates to mechanical and motor control fundamentals. The first class began training in January, and NCC intends to certify around thirty students by the end of 2023.
Three main industrial partners, as well as a Future Ready Iowa grant, contributed $185,000 toward the cost of equipping the lab space. Students are taught on trainers in concepts such as understanding AC/DC electrical systems, calibrating hydraulic systems, and installing pump processes. And although it’s not exactly set up like the process area they originate from, the skills learned and the ability to troubleshoot teaches the students to look at a problem in a different way in order to find a solution.
Dan Paquin, President of Premium Iowa Pork, was excited to not only be a premier partner in the program, but was also eager to have a full-class of “underemployed” Premium Iowa Pork employees gain skills that help in bettering their abilities at their employer. “It was really exciting for us to partner with NCC, and the folks have been good resources, good partners for us on this project,” said Paquin. “We think it makes a lot of sense. We’re excited about it. Technical jobs, skilled jobs where you have to work with your hands are critical to a lot of industries, not just mine but everybody else’s, so we are proud to be part of it.” Maynor, one of the current students in the program, volunteered for the opportunity to be part of the initial class. He shared that he enjoys working at Premium Iowa Pork and saw this training as an opportunity to grow in his skills within the company.
Brandon McClellan, General Manager from POET, says, “Educational programs like this create rewarding professional opportunities, which benefits communities like ours. POET is passionate about making the future of rural communities better, and this is a great opportunity to do that. As the other industry representatives said, this is a great way for our current team members to gain some electrical and mechanical skills and helps with their growth and development. This partnership shares our drive and creates new opportunities to make the world a better place.”
Another unique aspect of the Industrial Maintenance certification is that eventually, it will be offered to any interested individual who wants a quick course in these necessary skills. “Currently, the plan is to offer classes for employees with our three corporate sponsors (Premium Iowa Pork, POET, and Pella Corp.). After these trainings, we will offer trainings for companies who may not be able to fill a full class — basically offering a cohort training with one or two from various industries to fill a class of six. Additionally, we will open the courses for individuals who want to come in without an employer backing them, so they can get enhanced training, making them more marketable for these skilled positions,” states Anderson.
The program trainers, Nick Shaffer and Orville Van Roekel, are excited about the opportunity to build this program, knowing that each group that cycles through will come with new pre-established skills, and they will have to adapt teaching skills and their specific workplace needs. “Even in our first group, we see different ages and skill sets, and we are adapting our lesson plans to meet the needs of our students. It’s a fun challenge to work through,” says Shaffer.
For more information on the Industrial Maintenance program offering at Northwest Iowa Community College, contact Jason Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-352-4907 ext. 194.