02/05/14 — Wayne Community College offering business training

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Wayne Community College offering business training

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 5, 2014 1:46 PM

After a lengthy career in manufacturing, Steve Herring now finds himself providing education, training and support services for local business and industry.

As director of the Customized Training Program at Wayne Community College, his role ranges from assisting local industry in creating jobs to streamlining processes for efficiency.

"We do a lot of training and interpersonal skills," he said. "I was fortunate because I spent probably 28 years in manufacturing here in Wayne County. So it was a good fit for me because I have a good understanding of what the plant manager there is going through, some of the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis."

A selling point of the Customized Training Program is how easily it can be adapted to fit a business' schedule.

"Most of the manufacturers now are going lean. They're pretty well cut down as lean as they can be," he said. "When I set up a project, that's one of the things that I assure them of, that we're going to create a program that's customized and tailored. These are not canned programs. They fit that particular organization."

One of the biggest challenges is causing as little disruption to the workday as possible. Herring said he attempts to create "minimal impact" of interrupting jobs and productivity.

"Even though (the service) is free to the company, plus materials, it's still a cost to them to pull employees off the floor," he said.

The community college system has regional trainers available to travel to businesses and industries and provide training, Herring said.

"Ninety-five percent of everything we teach, we go on-site," he said. "We take it right there to them."

In addition to individualized programs, the college also sets up classes for multiple businesses to attend, in such areas as supervisory training, blueprint reading and OSHA courses.

Another area that is sought-after is "soft skills," Herring said. That could encompass such intangibles as work ethic, conflict resolution, etc.

Herring pointed out that the No. 1 thing sought by employees is not hourly wage or benefits -- it's to feel like they're part of what's going on.

"When I used to hire engineers fresh out of college, I didn't give them an office for about six months," he said. "You need to stay on the floor. You need to talk to people running the machines, workers on the floor that people in the industry are there to support.

"If you understand (that) I would not have a paycheck unless these people were making these parts, it'll go a long way. I'm a firm believer, you have got to walk that plant, be visible."

It helps that Herring has several partnerships in the community, from Mike Haney, Wayne County Development Alliance vice president, to attending quarterly meetings with Environmental Health and Safety. There are also internal collaborations at WCC.

"Customized Training works with continuing education to develop classes with (programs like) applied engineering. I try to incorporate CRCs (Career Readiness Certificates) and workforce readiness," he said. "We're all on the same page, looking at the same things and that's to develop a workforce. Not only develop a workforce, develop a pipeline that will attract industry to come in and have people ready to go."

To illustrate his point, he recalled a time from his own days working in the field.

"I guess it was the late 1980s, early 1990s, the company when I started my manufacturing career -- we made special tool and dye, we needed workers desperately," he said. "We couldn't find them anywhere around Wayne County to the level we needed them. We developed an apprenticeship program with WCC and N.C. Department of Labor and we probably graduated 40 or 50 from two- and four-year programs.

"When they got through they could get a job anywhere. But they didn't leave the county. That kept them here. What you've got to do is make manufacturing attractive to these young people."

The bottom line, he said, is that there are a lot of opportunities. Working in a factory is very different than it was years ago and can include anything from making tools to running a computer.

"I think (the training program) is a success because for a company to think of something they need, it's not got to be on the page for me to do it. We'll write a course," he said. "That and the flexibility that we can offer. That's the strength to me in what we can do here at the college. And you can't beat the price."

For more information on the Customized Training Program, call 919-739-6944.