A local business, local educators and the state of Ohio joined forces to provide good jobs for entry level workers and fill a critical industry need.
The Brown and Clermont Adult Career Campuses in Bethel, Ohio, worked with PJ Trailers in Mt. Orab, Ohio, to train new workers directly before sending them to the production line. BCACC Instructor Michael Hall learned what PJ Trailers needs from new hires and then teaches them in a training area. This jump start gives the new employees new skills and the confidence to succeed.
“This type of training is invaluable. PJ’s is a production company where they know what they’re doing and the line has to move. Once one person is done, the next person in line has to be ready. It’s imperative that everyone is up to speed, because if not, one table will set everybody else back,” said Hall.
New PJ Trailers employee Scott Zink is also impressed with the program. “I think this class is going to help us get more confident when it’s time to get out on the floor and do the job,” he said.
“The instructors have been great. This is my second week and I think my welds have improved dramatically.”
Hall said that most of the students are coming into the training as blank slates. “I think I have one student who had done any welding prior to getting here. Hopefully by the time we are done showing them what they need to know, they will be ready to jump out onto the production floor and contribute.”
Hall added that the training allows the students to grow into their jobs without making mistakes on the production line. “We tell them that they are welding the same way the workers are. The students are just not welding on a product. That way, when the students get to the line, they are not as apprehensive.”
PJ Trailers Manager Mike Studebaker said that his company is looking to hire 250 people as the company expands. The cooperative training program is one way to make that difficult job just a bit easier.
“We get to bring them in and get them started in our culture and what we are trying to do. Hiring outside means that you are bringing other plant’s cultures into your buildings and that’s not always a good thing. When you are developing your own talent, you are building your culture from the beginning, which is great for the entire company,” Studebaker said. “By offering individuals a chance to learn a trade and build our own talent from there, we will be able to maintain our headcount and give people a chance to learn a skilled trade.”
Studebaker said that the success of PJ Trailer depends on the quality of its workforce. “The more people we bring in and retain, the faster we can put out a quality product. It’s hard to put a price on how valuable that really is to us. You can’t put a price on good employees.”
And part of building that successful company culture is making sure the employees are confident and comfortable. The training provided by Hall and BCACC provides that. “They already feel at home when they go to the line. Hopefully, they will stay. If they learn here, they are going to make friends here, they become a family here and hopefully we can retain them longer,” said Studebaker.
He said the partnership with BCACC is paying off in other ways as well. “The candidates seem to be very good that the school is drawing in. They are younger individuals with a lot of high energy. They are people that are looking for a career and not just a pit stop, so I see it as extremely beneficial.”
Studebaker said that other companies should consider similar partnerships with BCACC and the state. “I would recommend it to anybody. We can already see the benefits from it. They are learning our way instead of having to unlearn things. Doing training this way could benefit any company.”
JobsOhio is a private economic development corporation for the state. Spokesperson Matt Englehart discussed how his organization became involved. “While we saw a specific need for welders to be hired at PJ Trailers, we are also well aware there remains a high demand for additional welders in and near Brown County. JobsOhio’s funding assistance will not only help produce highly skilled and well-paid welders for a growing company, but also bolster Ohio’s overall workforce,” Englehart said.
He added, “This is an excellent opportunity for those living in the area to receive training for reskilling or upskilling for welding positions that include high wages, healthcare and long-term job security. In addition, JobsOhio is partnering with local cohorts to support PJ Trailers’ talent attraction efforts to help meet its timelines and goal of creating hundreds of new jobs in Southwest Ohio.”
Vicky Carrington is the Adult Education Director for BCACC.
“This program is succeeding beyond our hopes and expectations,” she said. “We would encourage any company that would like to participate to get in contact with us or with JobsOhio to learn how we can help grow and strengthen their workforce.”