Internet Television Classes: A Game-Changer at Wyoming Machine

It’s no secret that technical college customized training is a life-saver for manufacturers. What you may not know is that Lori Tapani and Traci Tapani, Co-Presidents of Wyoming Machine, helped make that happen in Central Minnesota. Now they and their employees—are reaping the benefits.
For 21 years, Lori and Traci have worked closely with Pine Technical and Community College in Central Minnesota. Because WMI hires many carefully selected low-skilled workers and promotes them, training is vital. Ten years ago, a consortium of five manufacturers including Wyoming Machine, began brainstorming how they could collaborate to train workers for technical and managerial jobs.
The consortium helped write a grant. According to Lori, “We shared what types of training we needed and how it could be accomplished via the ITV (Internet Television) system. We also made a commitment to match the grant funds ‘in kind’ by paying employees during work time to take the classes.”
Lori added that when Pine Tech received the grant, the companies offered input for training needs. Pine Tech chose courses most helpful for the majority of the companies. After the initial roll-out, individual companies could request specific classes and either pay for them, or share costs with other companies needing the same classes.
Customized training brings classes to worksites via ITV. WMI employees take Pine Tech classes at work and can gain college credits and/or a certificate. Employees enrolled love that there’s no commute to school. In fact, even text books and materials are sent to WMI. It’s a true turn-key program. Classes are offered all four quarters. Subjects range from print reading, auditing, quality, safety, maintenance and manufacturing processes, to managing and much more.
Best of all, courses apply directly to work. According to Dani Guy, a parts finisher at WMI who is taking a manufacturing process class, “You learn things you’d learn on the floor—but before you deal with it. I love the classes. I use the skills every day.”
In fact, approximately 25 employees at WMI have taken the classes. Adam Peterson, production manager, facilitates the program. He sees a real difference in those who enroll. “They’re more engaged and conscientious after taking classes. It’s nice to see the transformation. ”You can see that they take additional pride in their work after their additional learning.”
Traci sees the difference, too. “I think for low skilled employees, in addition to improving job knowledge and skills, it helps to build confidence. Many people are surprised to learn that they can be successful taking college courses. Additionally, the added training gives our newer employees some ‘street cred’ or respect from more seasoned sheet metal fabrication workers.”
Heidi Braun, Program Director at the college, sees two-way benefits. “Our success has led to participation in another statewide department of labor grant to continue the program. As we grow, we hope to add welding and other training programs that will benefit industry in this region. They [the Tapani sisters] are a real inspiration.”
According to WMI employee Jill Clark, “I’d love to take more classes. The professors are very good. Now I’m looking at print reading; I hope to advance at WMI.”

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