SIKESTON - As business budgets tighten, eight area companies have found an innovative way to train their workforce.
The Bootheel Regional Training Group is providing classes at the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center in everything from basic hydraulics to global leadership to accident investigation training.
Members of the Bootheel Regional Training Group include Noranda Aluminum and Associated Electric Co. at New Madrid, Cott Beverage, Superior Essex, Good Humor-Bryers and Alan Wire in Sikeston, Bloomfield's Nestle/Purina and Rowe Furniture at Morehouse.
The eight-member training consortium applied for Customized Training Funding with the State of Missouri, receiving 100 percent of their request. Steve McPheeters, chairperson for the BRTG and a superintendent with Noranda, estimated the value of the fall 2002 and spring 2003 training at $60,000 with the eight participants only having to pay the $125 annual fee to belong to the training group.
"It's a win-win situation for everyone," said McPheeters. "We can send a few people at a time to the BRTG class offerings and it is not costing us a dime just their time to attend the classes. Southeast and Three Rivers are providing the instructors and the quality of the training has been very good."
Spring classes included the 32-hour Achieve Global Leadership Series, basic hydraulics pneumatics and basic programmable logistical controls along with intermediate/advanced PLC. Also there are 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA training classes and accident investigation training being offered. Class sizes vary from six to 16 participants.
Classes are determined by the group during monthly meetings. The individual industries poll their workforce on education needs and bring these requests to the group.
Noranda's maintenance foreman Tim Wagner is a member of the BRTG committee and works with other company representatives to assess training needs for electricians and mechanics. "The Bootheel Regional Training Group has worked very well for us in maintenance," Wagner said. "We can send two to four electricians or mechanics to a class without worrying about filling up a whole class of ten to twelve."
While new hires at Noranda might take a class in basic mechanical principles, McPheeters explained his company also makes an effort to offer leadership training through BRTG to those moving up into new positions. The class teaches them how to communicate more effectively and handle day-to-day stresses.
"And when you are taking a class with people from five other companies you find out you aren't the only one with challenges," McPheeters said. "You all face similar challenges and with this class they can share ideas on how to manage more successfully."
The $60,000 which funded the first training was from the Department of Economic Development. Funding for July 2003 through June 2004 should be announced soon, McPheeters said.
By being a consortium, rather than individual industries, McPheeters said he believes there is a better chance at limited resources. Even if future funding is not 100 percent, company officials said it still is cost-effective.
"With the state budget crisis looming, we may not get funded at 100 percent next year. But I'm sure the state of Missouri will prefer funding training consortiums versus individual companies in the future," he said. "It makes good sense to work together on training issues and participating companies learn a lot from each other in the process."
Tom Austin, plant manager at Alan Wire in Sikeston, agreed. "Economically it is good for us from the standpoint that we can get the training at a more economical price plus the training is specialized to our needs."
Also Austin praised those at SAHEC, Three Rivers and Southeast Missouri State. "This is a heck of an opportunity right here in Sikeston," he said. "There are dozens of other (companies) that could benefit from this. It seems that more people should take advantage of this."
Such programs are a fulfillment of part of the center's initial goals, said Judy Buck, director of the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center, where the classes are offered either by instructors through Southeast Missouri State University's College of Polytechnics or Three Rivers Community College.
"I think this is what was envisioned by those who were hoping to provide technical training to those in our area," Buck said about the classes. "BRTG has really grown and they are finding they are able to pool resources, to identify training needs, to work jointly to set up classes and to reduce costs. I would suggest others check into BRTG and if that group didn't meet their needs, then a group could be set up that could. We are open to that type of training programs."
For more information about SAHEC or the Bootheel Regional Training Group contact Buck at 472-3210.