Focus on Workplace Training
FVTC has helped Appleton-based Pierce Manufacturing succeed in today’s competitive marketplace through a mix of customized training options.
As a leading North American manufacturer of custom fire apparatus—everything from fire trucks and rescue trucks to a range of related equipment for customers throughout the world, Pierce Manufacturing has a strong need for specialized training for its employees. The company has turned to Fox Valley Technical College to develop and present training programs geared specifically for its employees and product line.
“We started partnering with Fox Valley Tech in 2002 and have trained about 500 employees through the college in everything from welding to hydraulics,” says Dave Herzfeldt, director of training for Pierce Manufacturing. “The partnership has pretty much everything we need skill-wise to help us educate employees.”
Herzfeldt is particularly pleased with the various learning objects FVTC offers. Learning objects are a cost-effective method of training employees on a just-in-time basis. They present information in a quick, accessible, visually enhanced format through online delivery. “The objects provide an interactive, multimedia way of learning important topics within the workplace,” says Chad Blohowiak, media specialist at FVTC. “The content becomes accessible to all employees anytime, anyplace.”
Pierce employees were looking for exactly this type of innovative training.
“Building a fire truck is a unique thing,” Herzfeldt says. “For example, we have more than 70,000 options that can go on a fire truck. I talked to Fox Valley Tech about online training and they showed me what a learning object is. You dissect something, a part or a process, and put it into a module and people can learn about it right at their desktops. The college created a repository, or an online library, for us that we call Pierce University, which has 150 modules. We can burn the objects onto CDs, but keeping them all online allows us to update them easily, which is critical for our type of company.”
One learning object deals with connectors. “Pierce assemblers need to know how to put connectors on wires,” says Dave Wuestenberg, key account manager for FVTC’s Business and Industry Services area. “They can go online, click on the learning object, and see how to do it.”
Pierce also uses the training modules to support its North American dealers and sales representatives. “Historically, Pierce has only been able to offer product training classes for sales representatives at our annual sales meeting or at major trade shows,” says Bev Kindschy, sales systems manager for Pierce. “Today, with Pierce University, product training is available online when and where needed. This program enables us to smoothly transfer product and technical knowledge to give these sales representatives more power to succeed.”
Pierce Manufacturing finds tremendous value on its relationship with FVTC. “It’s a great partnership,” Herzfeldt says. “In the next five years, we’ll take this a lot further. Fox Valley Tech is very flexible, which is important to us. The business and industry team at FVTC takes the time to learn about fire trucks, resulting in an understanding of what we’re doing and what we need.”
While Pierce Manufacturing is extremely pleased with the learning objects FVTC has developed for its employees, the company also has several cooperative programs with the college. Last year, for example, Pierce was faced with a shortage of welders, so it worked with FVTC to develop and conduct a six-week welding course for its employees based on the college’s two-year welding program.
For the past 15 years, new employees at Pierce also have attended a one-day Pierce Fire School at FVTC, where they learn the history of firefighting, drive trucks, lay hose lines, pump water, climb ladders, and experience how firefighters use the company’s products. Pierce’s customers also need training on how to use their products. FVTC trains the company’s dealers, who in turn train those customers.