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Local Colleges Bring Aid to Firms

The biggest problem with job training in the Valley has nothing to do with the training itself, it’s that not enough businesspeople know that the solutions to their employee dilemmas are often more simple and inexpensive than they could have possibly imagined. Flying under the radar of many companies, a wide network of job training organizations exist for beleaguered employers frustrated with unskilled employees. Often thought of as stopping points for students on their way to a four-year university, the local community colleges serve as much more than that. Often partnering with the San Fernando Valley Economic Alliance and the local Work Source Centers, the community colleges have succeeded in training significant amounts of local workers. Many employers chagrined at their employees’ lack of English, computer, or technical skills have turned to the schools to provide training in a litany ofy subjects. With costs often subsidized or even paid for entirely by the state, employers can upgrade the skill sets of their employees in a matter of weeks or months. Regardless of whether a particular course is eligible for state assistance, the classes are significantly more cost efficient than turning to the private sector for training. The Business Journal has spoken with each of the colleges in the area to find out what programs they offer, which companies they have worked with and what successes they have had. Los Angeles Pierce College Judith Trester, Pierce’s director of workforce development has only had a full time position for a year and a half, but in that time the school has managed to snag a state award for excellence for its partnership in training Office Depot employees. The company is also nominated for yet another award for its job training successes, this one given by the state’s Community College Association. Pierce works with major companies such as McDonald’s, Health Net, Agoura-Hills based DTS, Alcatel, and the Rexam Beverage Can Company, among many others, to provide training on the Pierce campus or at the specific job sites. Prices are affordable and significantly less than private companies that conduct job training classes and seminars. The costs vary based on the amount of training, with a variety of intangibles including class size, the number of hours the class will be and the type of class being taught. “Most private companies charge through the nose to do job training. Pierce saw that there was a big need for local affordable job training and we started to put some of our focus there. Our focus is on academics and it hasn’t been on workforce development until lately,” Trester said. “Our last president realized that most community college students come for workforce development or to improve their work skills. A lot of people even come with degrees from four-year schools. Pierce has addressed the issues to meet the needs of the local area. Almost every company has called us back for additional training.” Pierce has trained employees from DTS, a digital technology company that manufactures products found in home theatre, PC and car audio systems. Before signing up for the classes, executives at DTS had noted their employees’ lack of writing proficiency, a major problem considering that much of company communication occurs via e-mail. “Pierce’s instructor taught a writing workshop where she spoke about things like grammar. She taught things that employees hadn’t reviewed since elementary school. But everyone came out saying how interesting the classes were,” Les Helyes, DTS’ manager of corporate training, said. “Our e-mails are more succinct now. We’ve also noticed improvements in formatting, spelling and grammar. Everyone who took the classes was blown away. Even the once-intransigent marketing people saw the light and thought it was fabulous. We had a great instructor who had a lot of passion.” Contact Judith Trester: (818) 710-2549 Los Angeles Valley College A business’ lifeline is its labor pool, according to Lenny Ciufo, the director of job training at Los Angeles Valley College. The job training department has been at LAVC for 10 years, where it develops a customized curriculum to train new hires and current employees for local businesses. It works closely with businesses to determine their training needs and aims to develop customized solutions to address those particular needs. The institute has placed over 6,000 job seekers in new positions while providing skill and training upgrades to over 2,000 workers in jobs. The college boasts an impressive 87 percent job placement rate over the last decade. Some of the major employers that have worked with LAVC include Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Target Stores, Superior Industries, Superior Super Warehouse, Precision Dynamics and Wal-Mart. LAVC’s job training department has garnered numerous awards over the years, receiving three in 2004 alone: the South Bay Workforce Investment Board’s Outstanding Achievement Award for 100 percent placement, the Los Angeles Community College District Excellence in Workforce Development Award for best overall workforce development program and the Los Angeles Community College District Excellence in Workforce Development Award for outstanding collaboration with business and industry. “We decrease a company’s overall turnover rate. We’ve done surveys and people stay on the job longer when they are trained by us. By reducing the turnover rate you reduce expenses. You save a ton of money. We’ve hopefully made these companies more productive. We’re trying to increase the skills of the current workforce,” Ciufo said. San Fernando-based electronic tracking system manufacturer, Precision Dynamics Corporation has enrolled their employees in many types of training courses offered by LAVC, including classes in management and supervisor training, English as a second language, Spanish as a second language and computer training. “It has been such a great experience. I’ve been approached by other community colleges to do training with them, but the training at Valley was of the highest caliber. We wouldn’t want to go anywhere else,” Fabian Grijalva, PDC’s director of human resources, said. Contact Lenny Ciufo: (818) 947-2941 Glendale Community College When employers come to Kim Holland, the program manager for Glendale Community College’s professional development center, their complaints are typical of many Valley businesspeople. All day long Holland hears lamentations over how employees are lacking the skills to be efficient at work, employees are having problems with equipment, employees aren’t properly trained and employees lack suitable computer skills. Holland’s goal is to turn these weaknesses into assets. Companies like Avibank Manufacturing, Hydro-Aire Crane Aerospace, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Vought Aircraft Industries have found benefits from the courses the center offers; courses ranging from computer proficiency to advanced solid modeling design, from hazardous materials management to customized on-site management and leadership training. The professional development center has trained employees for over 6,000 businesses and counting. “We have had excellent responses from our participating employers and employees. Many tell us of the successful work they have been able to accomplish in less time as a result of our training. Employees tell us that they have become much more independent and better able to solve problems with product quality and performance,” Holland says. Ken Carson, the human resources manager for Hawthorne-based aircraft manufacturer, Vought Aircraft Industries, agrees with Holland’s assessment. “They’ve enhanced the skills of our employees. They’ve provided excellent instructors. I attended one of the computer classes and it was awesome, I improved my computer skills a great deal. The instructor I had was very talented. They work you extremely hard,” Carson said. Contact Kim Holland: (818) 957-0024 x225 College of the Canyons Pamela Welden, the director of the College of the Canyons’ employee training institute, can boast a lengthy list of acolytes in the Santa Clarita/Valencia area who attest to the ETI’s proficiency. With a wide list of partners including Boeing, chocolate-maker Chocolates a la Carte, Deloitte & Touche, Delta Scientific, and Nestle USA, the College of the Canyons has trained a significant portion of the Santa Clarita Valley’s workforce for the past decade. The ETI aims to improve efficiency, teaching employees how to have better communication, technological and manufacturing skills. “We have a background of success in improving process reduction in waste where companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions thanks to our training. We work with very practical issues to teach waste- reduction skills and techniques, so that the companies can set up systems for continuous improvement in creating a teamwork-focused environment,” Welden said. “Continuous improvement and changes are the biggest hurdle for companies today. We need to create environments that support change because it’s here to stay and it’s continuous and it’s stressful.” Don Schlotfelt, the executive vice-president of Valencia-based manufacturer, Pacific Metal Stamping, admitted apprehension before enrolling his company in classes with the ETI. “We were very apprehensive but we had three different sessions with three trainers and there was not a mediocre one in the bunch. We did a complete training overhaul of our people. Originally, none of the employees wanted to do it. But by the third class our employees were anxiously waiting for the next course to begin. At the end of our 60-hour session, the attitude of our company had completely changed for the better,” Schlotfelt said. Contact Pamela Welden: (661) 362-3245 Mission College Located in the northeast Valley, Mission College’s goal is to prepare people to work. Buoyed by a brand-new $590,000 two-year grant, the college is eagerly gearing up for a major collaborative program with Kaiser Permanente, the Los Angeles Unified School District/West Valley Occupational Center and the North Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Work Source Center. The collaboration aims to provide technical instruction to potential workers in order for them to become health care clerical assistants. The program will focus on providing customized short-term training to welfare recipients and the working poor. It will include LAUSD curriculum and instruction, a pooling of resources by the collaborators, seven weeks on in-class training focused on computer applications, general office procedure, customer service, business English and math and phone etiquette. Additionally, it will have two weeks of focus on medical terminology and a five week on the job internship at a hospital or clinic. Graduates of the program will receive job placement assistance. “The grant is very exciting because it will prepare people to work in all areas of the clerical field. It deals with the vocabulary and the language of the industry,” Ed Zayas, Mission’s dean of academic affairs in charge of workforce development, said. “The grant will provide comprehensive training from beginning to end. We hope to train about 94 participants.” Contact Ed Zayas: (818) 364-7758

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