Washburn Tech, manufacturers team up on job training

Graduates guaranteed an interview

Posted: February 8, 2014 – 4:48pm

By Megan Hart

Washburn Institute of Technology and five Topeka companies have teamed up to train job seekers for hard-to-fill manufacturing positions.

Bimbo Bakeries, Del Monte, Frito-Lay, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Mars Chocolate partnered with Washburn Tech and the Kansas Department of Commerce to develop a program to train certified production technicians for entry-level food manufacturing jobs.

The certified production technician certificate was developed by the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council. Students who complete the certificate have to pass assessments of their knowledge of safety; quality and measurement; manufacturing processes and production; and maintenance awareness.

Zoe Thompson, director of workforce training and education for the Kansas Department of Commerce, said the Washburn Tech program is part of a larger pilot project called Workforce Aligned with Industry Demand. Two other schools, one in southeast Kansas and one in southwest Kansas, are working on programs related to manufacturing and to the meatpacking industry, she said.

Employers met before the program started to come up with a list of skills they needed, Thompson said, and if the pilot works well schools and employers in other industries could develop their own programs.

“We hope to extend it to other industries and other areas of the state,” she said.

The program goes beyond typical job training because the participants can meet with employers before they start and do job shadowing during their training, Thompson said.

Participants are guaranteed a job interview if they complete the program, though hiring isn’t guaranteed. At the end, they also will have a credential showing they’ve mastered skills specific to the manufacturing industry, Thompson said.

“In this case, the education is linked to the job,” she said. “I think it has great potential.”

Clark Coco, dean of Washburn Tech, said the class is targeted at the skills local manufacturers agreed they needed.

“Adults can complete this training quickly and be prepared for quality jobs while local companies remain competitive with a skilled workforce,” he said in a news release.

The program has only been in the works since late 2013, Thompson said, but the Washburn Tech class will start in February.

“We’ve been pushing hard,” she said. “Our employers tell us they need people.”

For more information or to enroll, call Luci Zieman at Washburn Tech, (785) 670-2373, or Gina Coffman at the Topeka Workforce Center, (785) 235-1622. Students have to complete pre-assessment tests before enrolling. Financial aid from the Department of Commerce is available for a limited time for qualifying students.

Megan Hart can be reached at (785) 295-5659 or megan.hart.

Follow Megan on Twitter @meganhartMC.