Hot-wired for success

Local training partnership promotes advanced skills knowledge, salary increase

Production workers at Fort Wayne Metals provide new meaning to the notion of splitting hairs on the job. In fact, their employer expects this practice from many of them as a routine job function.

These particular associates work on the delicate, precision-driven side of the medical industry, where they manufacture medical-grade wire and cable. Some of the wire produced at this 67-year-old locally based company is eight times finer than human hair, making it virtually invisible.

“We hire bright, capable people, and we train the heck out of them,” said FWM Human Resources Director Dennis Rohrs. “We expect them to go out and do great things, and they do.”

As proof, FWM’s entire product line plays a pivotal role toward not only improving lives, but in some cases, even extending lives. From bone screws and orthodontic wire to spinal rods and pacemaker biofeedback wires, the company’s medical-support implements make a significant impact globally.

This towering achievement, along with the collective talents required to attain it, is not lost on FWM CEO Scott Glaze and Rohrs. So with a focus on continued prosperity, the company recently made a substantial financial commitment to a multi-year partnership with Ivy Tech Corporate College for workforce training and education.

The resulting plan is the FWM Manufacturing Certificate Program. Study completion will be linked to a base-pay salary increase for upwards of 200 production and production-support employees, Rohrs said.

“Our employees are very good at doing what they need to do today, but with Ivy Tech building this challenging, rigorous educational objective, we have a focal point for our employees that will prepare them for next year, five years out and ten years out, so we can continue to be the industry leader that we are,” Rohrs said.

Corporate College instructors began offering the first two classes to 76 employees at FWM’s Nighthawk Building in January. The company has dedicated space for two on-site classrooms to accommodate schedules from among its three shifts.

Ivy Tech’s 16-week academic-semester calendar is being followed per the employees’ request, with the exception of an accelerated summer class.

Enrollment in five courses per calendar year will allow employees to complete the certificate in as few as two years—an accomplishment that will place them at the half-way mark if they choose to advance and earn an associate degree in Advanced Manufacturing from Ivy Tech.

Ivy Tech–Northeast Industrial Technology alumnus Radamez Rodriguez, who is also a FWM shift leader, said he intends to be among the program’s first graduates, so he can leverage the knowledge he gains toward workplace promotions.

“Fort Wayne Metals goes out of its way to offer education and anything that can benefit an employee,” he added. “In my humble opinion, this is probably the best company I’ve ever worked for. I love my job. I wish I would have come across this place 20 years ago.”

As participants progress in their coursework, Corporate College aims to maintain continuity in the instruction by limiting the number of instructors. The rationale is to promote employee–instructor bonding and ensure that the instructors are in frequent communication, so the program can be taught in as similar a manner as possible as new employees enter it, said Jim Aschliman, Corporate College executive director in Fort Wayne.

This consistency-in-delivery approach suits Rohrs well—a man who describes himself as being passionate about learning.

“Excuse my phraseology, but we’re going to help people develop ‘big brains,’” Rohrs said. “We think that’s huge, both for our workplace and also for them, as we think about the spin-off benefits, which includes the children of our employees who will be seeing their parents and grandparents in college. We’re also sending a message to those children: Learning is important. We can’t place any dollar amount on that.”

Partnership award presented to Fort Wayne Metals

Toward recognizing Indiana companies with exemplary workforce education and training initiatives, Ivy Tech Corporate College has established the Corporate College Partner Award, which the college will present to select Hoosier businesses annually.

Fort Wayne Metals is the sole recipient in northeast Indiana for the 2012 inaugural-year honor. Delegates from Ivy Tech Community College–Northeast and Corporate College presented a plaque to FWM CEO Scott Glaze at the company’s Fort Wayne-based headquarters on Feb. 18.

FWM has added more than 200 employees during the last 2 1/2 to three years, Glaze shared.

“As we grow, we see areas to enhance the skills of our employees in math, lean manufacturing, engineering and problem solving,” he added. “This (FWM Advanced Manufacturing Certificate) partnership with Ivy Tech will provide those advanced skills and can also lead our employees toward associate and bachelor’s degrees in the future.”

In addition to FWM, five other companies were chosen for the award: Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Federal Mogul Corporation–Logansport Plant in Logansport, Heartland Payment Systems in Jeffersonville, Osborn International in Richmond and Sony DADC in Terre Haute.