By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Finding good employees isn’t always easy, but manufacturing companies in Wright, McLeod, Carver, and Meeker counties are taking steps to increase the number of skilled workers available in the region.
This fall, area businesses plan to enter a partnership with Dunwoody College of Technology to offer a training center in Winsted.
“It will give students the option to stay in the region, receive accelerated training, and have 100 percent job placement,” said Trevor Millerbernd, CEO of Millerbernd Manufacturing in Winsted.
About 20 businesses from Litchfield, Maple Lake, Annandale, Mound, and other cities within a 30-mile radius of Winsted attended an informational session about the proposed training center Tuesday.
Millerbernd presented a few details, stating that supporting businesses would be able to help customize the curriculum to meet their specific needs.
Welding and machining
“To start with, we’re looking at a welding course, and a CNC machining course,” Millerbernd said.
Instead of the typical two-years, the program would be about 18 weeks long.
Classes would take place in the former NAPA location in downtown Winsted. The 3,000-square-foot building has room for 10 to 14 students to receive hands-on training, with a welding booth or CNC machine for each student.
Supporting businesses will help cover the cost of equipment and day-to-day operations. Millerbernd said that with the ideal number of sponsors (10 to 12), each one would pay about $5,000 per year.
‘Sign me up’
So far, Dunwoody College of Technology has visited two schools (Holy Trinity High School in Winsted and Litchfield High School) to recruit students for the program.
“The interest is there,” said Barb Obershaw of Dunwoody College of Technology. “At Holy Trinity, we had about six boys in the back of the classroom raise their hands and say ‘sign me up.’ In Litchfield, we’ve probably got about nine seniors and another dozen juniors.”
Obershaw said the accelerated training program is a great option for students who might not otherwise be interested in pursuing post-secondary education.
Cost and value
The tuition cost per student is estimated at $8,000 to $10,000. Supporting businesses will need to decide if they are interested in offering reimbursement.
Millerbernd commented that requiring students to pay the tuition fee themselves could help filter out those who are not truly motivated.
“The people we want in our shop are the ones who find a way,” he said.
Winsted City Council Member Tom Ollig added that the program is substantially less expensive than a four-year college. And, unlike a four-year college, students who complete the program are guaranteed a job in the region.
“About half of the college grads right now are either unemployed or under employed they’re not at that job they thought they would get,” Millerbernd added.
Students who’d like to enroll in the Dunwoody training center in Winsted need to score at an acceptable level on the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) assessment. Obershaw said there is no charge for the test, which measures reading comprehension, basic math skills, and ability to locate information.
“We’re very excited about being here, and we would love to get out into this part of the state,” Obershaw said.
Dunwoody College of Technology’s main campus is in Minneapolis. To learn more about Dunwoody’s workforce training and continuing education, call (612) 381-3327.
What: An 18-week program through Dunwoody College of Technology to train welders and CNC machinists.
When: Classes could start this fall. The schedule has yet to be determined.
Where: The planned location is the former NAPA building in downtown Winsted.
Who: Recent high school graduates as well as non-traditional students are eligible to apply for the program.
Why: Area manufacturing companies hope to increase the number of skilled workers in the region.