Foundry workers earn degrees
FVTC provides quality engineering program
In an innovative approach to addressing a workplace challenge, Waupaca Foundry worked with Fox Valley Technical College to devise a customized solution.
FVTC’s Business and Industry Services team is one of the state’s leading providers of workplace training initiatives, serving more than 23,000 employees last year.
Many of these services include training in the areas of leadership development, communications and quality, which is where the foundry sought the college’s help most recently.
The two organizations have a longstanding partnership, and the latest accord ushered a new dimension to developing the foundry’s workforce.
Seven employees earned associate degrees from FVTC’s Quality Engineering Technology (QET) program over the course of nearly three years while balancing work, school, and family commitments.
Most workplace training programs provide employees with certificates of completion in recognition of their new skills. In this case, the Waupaca Foundry cohort embarked on a pathway from a quality assurance certificate to earning a two-year degree with an engineering focus.
“This immersion included a leadership element while developing a critical skill set for our growing company,” said Kirk Kallio, human resources manager at the foundry. “The education was provided at Fox Valley Tech’s Waupaca Regional Center. It’s uplifting to see how these employees grew as people, not just as workers.”
QET graduate Scott Bailey commented on the value of the experience during a formal ceremony at FVTC’s Waupaca regional center.
“The foundry cares about its employees,” he said. “We are now more confident than when we started our journey.”
Workforce Advancement Training grant support and tuition reimbursement assisted in paying for the needed pathway to address key initiatives in customer service and process improvements.
“This cohort of seven degree completers represents more than 125 years of experience for our company,” Kallio said.
An additional completer was promoted to a position at the foundry’s Tell City, Indiana location.
Fellow graduate and ceremony speaker James Johnson believes the experience built camaraderie.
“We became a family. If someone struggled, everyone was willing to help,” Johnson said.
Those sentiments were then echoed by Ellen Jack, manufacturing operations instructor at FVTC.
“This commitment was not easy on the students and their families, but in the end all of the graduates brought a unique perspective to the learning environment,” she said. “It was a momentous moment to see all the wives and children at the ceremony to share in this amazing accomplishment.”