Information Technology

Terra tech training working to solve challenges of today’s workforce


Terra State

Workforce development is an ever-changing environment. It is also important to remember that workforce development involves more than just manufacturing. Workforce development can be associated with the medical field, government jobs, non-profit organizations, education and more. There are a number of issues facing today’s workforce, such as, potential new hires not passing drug tests, not having the basic knowledge needed for a job, the retirement of workers with experience and knowledge, along with a number of people just not wanting to work.

One way to help with the skilled worker shortage is for companies, as listed previously, to start an apprenticeship program(s) within their company. An apprenticeship program allows companies to send their employee to school for training in the latest technology within their field of work. This also provides the company the opportunity to work with their employee by providing them hands-on work experience while allowing them to utilize the skills they are learning in school. On the average, most apprenticeship programs are 4 to 6 years depending on how a company structures their program. There are a large number of apprenticeship programs available for companies to choose from. Another option is for companies to work with their educational partners who provide apprenticeship training to setup a program(s) tailored to meet a company’s specific need(s). A company may have multiple apprenticeship programs running simultaneously. Welding, HVAC, machining, robotics and electrical are just a few of the areas of study available for companies. One of the training tools Terra State currently uses for robotics is a software program called RoboGuide. The software is loaded on a computer in our lab; a full-size, functional “teach” pendent is connected to the computer so the student can see a functioning 3D robot on their screen and using the “teach” pendent program the robot to perform the functions as required. This allows the student a realistic work environment with the tools they will be using while allowing them time to practice and refine their skills before going to the production floor. This is one area where technology is playing an important role in training our next generation of workers.

Technology seems to change daily with newer, bigger and brighter tools for communicating. I was talking with a plant manager not too long ago and they used their cell phone for everything. They had a laptop on their office desk but were seldom in their office so the cell phone did everything for them. I worked for an organization where we all had tablets that we used while working away from the office. Instead of keeping our records on our tablet, we had an internet connection on our tablet, allowing us a VPN connection back to our office files, allowing for a secure connection while working in the “field.” As long as I had a connection, which was 99 percent of the time, I did not have to go into the office; everything I needed to do was done from my car, house or client’s location. Terra State teaches of number of computer programs, both hardware and software. We continue to see the basic Microsoft programs as popular programs; Word I & II, Excel I & II and PowerPoint. We are seeing an uptick in PowerPoint as more and more individuals are involved in making presentations at work to their superiors. Basic PC, Windows 10 and Google Drive & Productivity Apps are popular too. More companies and individuals are using Google Drive and its office productivity applications so we expect to see a slow movement towards these products.

It is important to understand basic technology and how it works. Many of our classes are blended classes, using classroom and online teaching together. Terra State are now offering more online classes than in the past to help accommodate our busy lifestyles. All online classes require a basic knowledge of how the technology works, how communication between the instructor and student works, how you download documents and getting into the habit of the time management of your online studies/activities. It is also important to remember your audience, whether it is learning in a classroom or learning online. Younger adults, middle-aged adults and mature adults all have different learning styles. Remember, if your company is doing training and these three groups will all be involved, the trainer needs to understand the different techniques and styles of learning that are required for your class to be successful.

Leadership has become an important part of the corporate world. Even though it is not technical in nature, it has a very big impact on business operations. Many time organizations promote individuals to leadership or supervisory roles because of their technical expertise and later realize these individuals do not have the necessary people skills. In many situations, the individuals have been setup to fail because of the lack of training and knowledge. We also find that organizations are starting to realize there has been no transfer of knowledge (succession planning) and when people start to retire, from the top down, there is no one to fill those positions. There are a number of categories to look at when reviewing leadership training; group leaders, team leaders, front line supervisors along with mid-level managers, directors, senior-level leadership and executives. The other piece that many organizations fail to look at are assessments. Do we or have we chosen that right people for the positions being filled? Assessments are for both internal and external candidates. Businesses do not want to fill a positions thinking you know the individual and later find out that they were not a good fit for the position. Terra State has a rich array of assessments and leadership programs to assist organizations with their specific needs. We even have the ability to tailor a program that meets your organizations specific need(s).

There are many challenges that organizations need to meet with today’s workforce. Organizations like Terra State can assist and guide you in a direction that makes your path a little easier.

Steven Hillard is executive director of Workforce Development & Corporate Partnerships at Terra State Community College, 419-559-2458,