Archive for Monday, February 25, 2008

Program helps students find a path in workplace

Managers tout unique hands-on experience

Brad Ballard works on a gear cutter on the machine floor Wednesday at Sauer-Danfoss in the East Hills Business Park. Sauer-Danfoss, which makes transmissions, is participating in the Douglas County Manufacturing Certificate Program, which combines education and real-world experience to help give workers a leg up in the industry.

Brad Ballard works on a gear cutter on the machine floor Wednesday at Sauer-Danfoss in the East Hills Business Park. Sauer-Danfoss, which makes transmissions, is participating in the Douglas County Manufacturing Certificate Program, which combines education and real-world experience to help give workers a leg up in the industry.

February 25, 2008


Stacy Walters on tuition and internships

Stacy Walters, an organizer of the new Douglas County Manufacturing Certificate Program, explains how combining free tuition with paid on-the-job internships can pay off for area companies and program participants alike. Enlarge video

Douglas County Manufacturing Certificate program taking applications

Folks willing to learn - but not interested in college - soon may be able to go to work as part of a new vocational program. Enlarge video

Taking applications

Applications are being accepted for the Douglas County Manufacturing Certificate Program, which provides participants with free tuition for classroom work, plus a $10-an-hour manufacturing job at either Sauer-Danfoss or Berry Plastics in Lawrence.

Application packets are available from guidance counselors at Lawrence, Free State and Eudora high schools, and at Heartland Works, 2540 Iowa.

The application deadline is March 15. Candidates will be interviewed, and a minimum of 10 will be selected to enroll and work from June through December.

For more information, contact Stacy Walters at Heartland Works, (785) 580-6352.

The folks at Sauer-Danfoss make transmissions - big ones - for off-road construction equipment and oversized mowers.

Beginning late this spring, an innovative new program will mix vocational scholarship with hands-on work, all designed to give prospective full-time employees the best chance to succeed at Sauer-Danfoss, Berry Plastics or any other manufacturing operation.

The real work and real learning also will give participants a real chance to land what many people really want: a solid job.

"It's very important for us to find people that this is a good fit for, who want to do this work," said Jennifer Wolken, human relations generalist at the company's plant in the East Hills Business Park. "This will just really give them the experience that they wouldn't have otherwise, so that they know what it's like to work in a manufacturing facility and know the skills that are required."

The Douglas County Manufacturing Certificate Program is organized by Heartland Works, Johnson County Community College, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, the Lawrence and Eudora school districts, Sauer-Danfoss and Berry Plastics.

Beginning in June, about a dozen participants will be enrolled in basic manufacturing courses offered through the community college and conducted at the Lawrence Virtual School, 2145 La. Tuition - about $1,300 per participant - will be paid by Heartland Works, through financing provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Along with the classes, participants will work anywhere from 20 to 40 hours a week at a participating manufacturer. Companies will pay each participant $10 an hour during what will be considered an internship.

Work ahead

The employment-based certification program will run through December, at which time participants will receive their certificates and, perhaps most important, the potential for landing full-time work at a participating manufacturer.

"The biggest thing to employers is getting people who have what it takes to stick with the program, to see it through," said Stacy Walters, a business consultant for Heartland Works, 2540 Iowa. "That proves more to them than anything to be learned through the program."

Sure, she said, participants will pick up plenty of necessary skills in class: the need for wearing safety goggles and steel-toed shoes; the importance of showing up for work on time and prepared to fit into a team environment; the basics for using tools and understanding how to handle industrial materials.

Anyone who can get through the classes, which will be conducted Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and operate well enough on the work floor will be positioned to move into a full-time job immediately.

As one manager told Walters: "If someone successfully completes this program, why wouldn't we hire them?"

"What you learn in the program will be very important," Walters said. "What you prove by completing it will be even more so."

Future flexibility

Efforts to launch such vocational training in the area had been percolating for several years but had yet to coalesce into anything that could combine in-class instruction with at-work experience and payoffs.

Beth Johnson, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce vice president for economic development, acknowledged that while the certification program may have been a long time in coming, its potential already looks bright.

There's talk of focusing efforts on specific manufacturing processes, such as for motors (such as at Sauer-Danfoss) or plastics (at Berry), or even reaching into segments poised for future growth, such as biosciences.

"Whatever a company's specialty is, hopefully we will have a second layer for this to allow some specialized training - engineering, or whatever it is - that turns out to be (an employee's) strong suit," Johnson said. "It will help them find a path."

The program also could help boost economic-development efforts, she said, by helping build a more qualified labor pool.

Wolken, at Sauer-Danfoss, said she was looking forward to seeing a half-dozen or so program participants join her and her 150 co-workers at the East Hills plant. The participants will be production operation technicians, either on an assembly line or in a machine cell where gears and rods are made.

"It's going to help them come into our environment and become more comfortable and productive faster," said Wolken, who started out at Sauer-Danfoss as a technician, working on the assembly line, before the company then paid her tuition to obtain a degree at Baker University. "People are going to be able to get a taste of this before they commit long-term.

"It's going to be a win-win for the businesses, the people, the community - everybody."


warthog 10 years, 2 months ago

"The real work and real learning also will give participants a real chance to land what many people really want: a solid job."

I haven't seen the word 'real' used that many times in a sentence since... no... never seen it used that many times. I mean... really...

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 2 months ago

When he hits those gears with the orange hammer, the hammer makes a "squeek" sound.

jayhawklawrence 10 years, 2 months ago

There are other excellent training facilities for those interested in an industrial career. The advantage of this type of career is that after a couple of years you can make close to $20/hour or more and have plenty of opportunities for overtime. After 5-7 years, you will have the skills necessary to work anywhere in the country and potentially start your own business. You can easily move up in management and have a good career in an exciting job. Jobs are and will be VERY plentiful for CNC machinists. (Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tools). Contact Del Schaeffer at Kaw Technical School in Topeka, Gene Giarratano at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, MO. Excellent training facilities. Unlike the housing industry, manufacturing is doing well.

Buggie7 10 years, 2 months ago

This is a wonderful program and i agree with jayhawklawrence where there are plenty of these programs out there they just have to be looked up. These are wonderful for kids whose parent cannot afford to send them to college and they cant afford it themselves but still want that education and know how on how to leas a productive life. My nephew does the co-op program at Good year and it has been really great for him. He is also in the army but the education that good year is giving him has worked wonders for a weekend warrior who doesnt want to make a career out of the military.

jayhawklawrence 10 years, 2 months ago


It has been a mystery to me why there seems to be an anti-manufacturing bias around Lawrence. I have had the priviledge of touring probably 5-7000 manufacturing facilities across the country since 1981 and I am still enjoying my work in the industry. It is an exciting industry with a lot of opportunity. But manufacturing is not well understood by academics. I cannot tell you how many small business and entrepreneurs started in manufacturing and became incredible successful (WITHOUT) going to college. I am not saying college is not a good idea, get it if you can, or go to night school while you are making parts. The sky is the limit for people who want to work and learn.

jayhawklawrence 10 years, 2 months ago

I am not quite sure but it looks like the guy in the picture is working to cut a thread on the internal diameter of a special type of gear. (I can't tell completely from the picture). It takes skill to make gears and make them accurate. It takes some very advanced math calculations. I like the serious look on his face. Looks like a good man who is proud of his work. If you can cut gears, you can probably do just about anything in a machine shop.

justthefacts 10 years, 2 months ago

$20 an hour? Try $40+ an hour plus for a lot of technical jobs. And almost all of the medical related jobs (e.g. surgery technicians).

For those willing or able to do a stint of from 1-2 years in a technical college/school (private or public) the financial rewards are increasing. The days when a college degree got you the best paying jobs are dwindling. These days, there is a high demand for employees who can do things like weld or work on machinery.

For example, the Garden City Community College cannot get enough students into their John Deere machinery classes! Students there spend 2 years being trained, with JD often paying the tuition and a living stipend. Afterward, the new JD employee starts out at least $40,000 annually, and repays the company their investment in the education process. Often times these employees continue with school, to get degrees in management. But the technical education they got first paves the way to a better life for them and their families!

Those who remain snobby about manual labor are indeed missing the boat and a big clue. Parents should encourage young people to look into alterntive careers and schools, and not get hung up on what "other people" think. The success stories are those who can get a JOB that they do not hate and that pay their bills. Not the person who has umpteen bachelor (or graduate) degrees but can't find a job that makes more then they'd get delivering pizzas etc.!

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 2 months ago

"Those who remain snobby about manual labor are indeed missing the boat and a big clue."

Well, I think you probably meant "skilled" labor, and even with all the advanced degrees in my family, I couldn't agree more. The wealthiest person in our entire extended family is an auto mechanic. He now owns his own shop and is making a good (!) living.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.