Several Domtar facilities are turning their attention to job readiness programs in an effort to train the next generation of workers for our industry. By working with local universities, vocational school and unions, we’re finding quality interns and new hires as well as providing continuing education and training opportunities for our existing workforce.
Take a look at what’s happening in Waco, Texas, and Kamloops, British Columbia.
Waco Personal Care Facility
Our Personal Care manufacturing facility in Waco is working hand-in-hand with several local organizations to help prepare students for jobs in manufacturing. This includes on-the-job training and continuing education.
“In today’s market, technical skills and operator capabilities are paramount to our success,” says Scott Vernon, human resources manager at Waco. “Knowing that the team of people we have are well trained and are growing their capabilities on the job will make us successful in the future.”
The Waco facility has a long history with Texas State Technical College (TSTC) that includes internships and job placement programs. In addition, through a 2016 grant from the Texas Workforce Commission, TSTC brought professors to the facility every Friday for 18 months to provide technical training to Domtar operators. Once the grant ran out, Vernon found ways to continue the in-house training.
“Programs like this create a culture of learning,” says Vernon. “It can be difficult to sustain, but ultimately if you can create an environment where employees feel the organization is investing in them, they in turn will invest their efforts in the organization.”
In addition to working with TSTC, the Waco facility has found interns through Baylor University and through the Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy (GWAMA), which is a vocational high school focused on four core subjects: precision metal manufacturing, electronics and robotics, welding and construction science.
“We had a young lady who graduated from GWAMA last spring with a certificate in computer programming,” says Vernon. “She didn’t have exactly the skills that we needed when we brought her on as an intern, but we are planting those skills with on-the-job training. Now she has an interest in electrical engineering. Our hope is that she’ll go to school for the training she needs, continue to work with us as an intern during the summers and then become one of the first female engineers in our facility.”
Interns at Waco train directly with skilled employees, some of whom are preparing to retire in a few years.
“Ideally, we’ll be training up the people who will fill those voids,” says Vernon. “We have to take a long-term perspective on job readiness. Not every company is willing to do that, but we have people committed to making it happen. It’s like planting an acorn and hoping the oak will grow in three to five years.”
Debbie Kirkpatrick, human resources manager at our Kamloops Mill in Kamloops, British Columbia, has the same perspective on job readiness.
“We’re facing the biggest workforce demographic transition that we have ever experienced,” she says. “It’s important that there are education and training programs that introduce future employees to the career options in the pulp industry.”
By partnering with the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) School of Trades and Technology and the local Unifor union, Kamloops Mill is ensuring students and employees have access to quality trade-skills training that will directly benefit Domtar.
For example, the mill supported the development of the TRU Trades Foundation Training Program that introduces secondary-school students to the millwright trade. The students tour the mill to see a real industrial setting and learn how various processes work in the mill as opposed to learning about them only in a classroom setting.
Kamloops Mill pipefitters helped create a safety video for the TRU Pipefitter program that demonstrated a step-by-step procedure for line breaking. This practical safety training video is relevant for our industry and the pipefitting trade.
Other activities include equipment donations, support for TRU’s Women in Trades initiative and funds for student scholarships.
“In addition to the focus on trades training, we’re in the initial stages of developing an in-house operator training program to enhance the skills of recently hired field operators in the Fiberline area of the mill,” says Kirkpatrick. “Forty-eight percent of employees have been in the Fiberline for less than three years. These workers may not have learned all of the process details during their initial training, so our goal is to close the gap with this program.”
Looking ahead, Kirkpatrick says, “The Kamloops Mill needs to be innovative when it comes to preparing the next generation of workers. We need a combined approach that involves partnering with the local trade school, enhancing in-house training systems and proactively recruiting when we know someone is retiring to encourage a mentorship between the new worker and the retiring skilled worker.”
Learn more about how Domtar encourages job readiness and promotes careers in our industry:
- Domtar Supports Higher Education, Offers Merit Awards