Partners in Progress
The Ariens Co. has discovered that FVTC’s custom training programs are a powerful way to ensure that its employees are prepared for tomorrow’s business challenges.
For 75 years, the Ariens Co. in Brillion has been manufacturing outdoor equipment that is sold around the globe—everything from snow blowers to mowers for golf and sports turf. The company employs about 1,200 people worldwide and has manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Alabama, and parts operations in Indiana, Michigan, and Australia.
Along with that impressive growth in both products and locations came a need for training to ensure that Ariens’ employees maintained the skills necessary to drive the business and produce products of the highest quality. The company recognized that in order to accomplish those goals, it would need to provide training specifically designed for its employees, particularly welders.
“People aren’t drawn into welding as much anymore, and we’re not a union company, so we don’t have an apprenticeship program to train them,” says Suzette Mitchell, Ariens’ manager of Human Resources. “We knew we would have to grow these workers within the company. We turned to FVTC, which has a good reputation, and a number of our standout welders earned their degrees there.”
Following an assessment led by FVTC to identify the type of training the company needed, Ariens began to put its employees through the Grow Your Own Welders program. “Eighty employees have gone through the training so far,” Mitchell says. “The training was conducted here and went very smoothly. We run three shifts, and the people at FVTC were very flexible in meeting our needs on each shift.”
Ariens’ employees are also participating in FVTC’s Blueprint Reading training program, and the company is addressing other training initiatives as well. “Our focus is to increase the skill level of employees and the quality of our products,” Mitchell says. “We have very talented people who want to move up, and we want to give them a career path. We’re investing in growing and retaining our own people.”
FVTC also provides customized training for companies from the greater Fox Valley to abroad. “In 2007, we had $7.6 million in contract training and worked with 1,500 employers with enrollments of more than 22,000 employees,” says Mary Frozena, FVTC’s associate director of Business & Industry Services. “We work with organizations from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies to major government organizations.”
Training plans typically begin with an assessment of the company’s current needs, followed by a training program that is customized to meet immediate and future skill gaps. “We continue to reassess clients’ needs to see if they change,” Frozena says. “What they need today might not be what they need a year from now. With Ariens, for example, we customized training to meet its needs, but those needs are fluid and changing, so we are always making modifications and changing the program.”
FVTC conducts training either at the client’s site or on campus, and it does so at a time convenient for the client, even if it’s in the middle of the night. “We deliver around-the-clock training,” Frozena says, which is especially appealing to clients in the manufacturing industry that run three shifts.
Mitchell is pleased with the training partnership Ariens formed with FVTC. “They made a point of understanding our business needs and worked hard to get grant funds to support some of this training. The college is a good partner for us.”
College staff members also help clients write grant proposals to fund training programs. “Grant dollars are focused on employees,” says FVTC’s Mary Frozena, who recently wrote a proposal for a Workforce Advancement Training grant for a consortium of three local companies, including Ariens. “If we can keep employers local and viable, it adds to the economic vitality of the community.”
“The employers, as part of this consortium, support the 3,000 residents of Brillion,” Frozena adds. Both the organizations and workers understand it’s economically imperative to build skills to position the local companies for growth and success.”
FVTC’s Business & Industry team is the largest provider of contract training and related services within the Wisconsin Technical College System.