When one Wilmington company needed management training for its employees, it didn't have to hire expensive tutors or send its employees out of town.
Fenner Drives went to Cape Fear Community College to get training that was customized to its needs – and essentially free.
In Fenner's case, employees didn't even have to go to the community college. Rather, the classes were held at the company's manufacturing facility in the Northchase Industrial Park.
Fenner Drives' customized training is a service of the North Carolina community college system, and is open to companies in manufacturing, life sciences, regional or national warehousing and distribution, customer support centers and technology-intensive business.
But to be qualified a company must be involved in a project that includes job growth, productivity enhancement or capital investment, said Mary Tillery, customized-training coordinator at Cape Fear.
"The size of the company doesn't matter as much as the job growth and productivity enhancement," Tillery said.
During fiscal year 2010-11, the program provided training statewide to 27,740 individuals at 605 eligible companies at a cost of more than $9,2 million, or $334 per trainee.
But it's essentially free to the companies that use it.
"With every project we sit down and hear what their needs are and we come up with classes and a budget," Tillery said. "We get a commitment from the companies that they are going to stick with this training."
Cape Fear's customized training program isn't new. Among users here have been GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, AAIPharma, Sturdy Corp. IKA Works and Corning, Tillery said. And now the college wants to get word about the program out to small and medium-sized businesses, too.
Though community college instructors are used in the training, the program also has six regional instructors who are contracted by the state, and one is teaching project management at Fenner Drives, which has 38 employees.
"I've done companies that have 12 employees to 3,500," said regional instructor Dan Grimsley as he broke from a class. The industries he's worked with have been "peanuts to aerospace," said Grimsley, who covers 54 counties in eastern North Carolina from his base in Tarboro.
Fenner Drives, which is 100 years old this year, is primarily focused on injection molding of plastics with a focus in the exercise industry, material handling and agricultural industry, said Todd Webb. Fenner's plant manager. The company's parent is Fenner PLC in Hull, England, and its U.S. headquarters is in Manheim, Pa.
The company originally contacted Tillery to get machine shop training, but then discovered that the community college offered more, said Matthew Neal, the company's operations manager.
The customized-training program is designed to enhance a firm's growth, Tillery said.
In other words, the training will bring concrete results for the company.
"We're looking at different ways to utilize processes here, to streamline them, make them more efficient to our needs," said manufacturing manager Jason Kinney as he took a break from class.
"The hope is to be able to decrease our inventory, increase our production efficiencies and create a safer work environment for our associates."
Neal said the program is "tailor-made to your company. It's customized directly to what you do.
"We're doing real live projects during the training," he continued. "After the training you can apply it right away."