Hillsboro Industries is a small manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Kansas that produces high-end trailers and truck beds. They are located in a rural part of the state, not close enough to an urban area that often has key resources for a manufacturing company.
They face many challenges, and an adequately trained workforce is one of them. Business is good and jobs are available, but the company has trouble filling the openings. They find that this problem comes from the devaluation of factory jobs so the educated unemployed pursue other options.
Modern factories cover a range of skills, from non-skilled positions like shipping or washing truck beds, to skilled jobs like welding or machinery operation. An experienced welder can find work easily. And there are many applications for people who have never touched a welding torch. If these applicants had spent some time practicing at a weld school or in a class in high school, this would be a different story.
To make an average truck bed on its production line, Hillsboro Industries needs aluminum, equipment and technology, and a trained and efficient workforce to manufacture it. The materials and equipment are relatively easily to acquire. Their purchasing and maintenance departments keep these activities in check. By the same token, aluminum is not an easy material to weld, and a company can’t afford to do a great deal of hands on training with a temperamental material like aluminum.
A trained and efficient workforce in a smaller, rural community is not as easy to acquire and retain. That’s where the relationship with Hutchinson Community College comes in.
Hutchinson Community College (HCC) is located in the south-central part of Kansas, approximately 60 miles from Hillsboro Industries. Today, HCC provides a variety of training and education to the Hillsboro community, many of whom become full time employees with Hillsboro Industries. As important to the company, the individual and the community, oftentimes the newly trained worker will stay in Hillsboro, countering the effect that often happens when HS graduates go to college and don’t return to the smaller towns.
In some of the most recent training opportunities, HCC has provided Hillsboro Industries employees and Hillsboro citizens in areas such as shop math, blueprint reading, safety, MIG welding, and Aluminum MIG welding.
As a result of the relationship between the community of Hillsboro, Hillsboro Industries, and HCC, the company has continued to sustain its business base. Without this type of relationship and existing training, it is likely that Hillsboro Industries would have had to either shut down, or more likely move its operations to another location.
Over the course of the last three years, Hillsboro Industries have provided economic impacts on the work performed by MAMTC through its partnership with HCC of $600,000 of increased sales, $300,000 in retained sales, 7 jobs created or retained, $40,000 of decreased costs, and $770,000 of new investment.:
“We have better equipment than we had back then. Your specifications can be so much closer than way back when we had to shew and torch, but now we’ve got a plasma torch that can stay within a thousandth of an inch. You can’t do that with a hand-held cutting torch. But I don’t see technology as replacing people, it’s improving performance.” - Mike Gerken, Chief Operating Officer