(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Workforce Training department is providing a 10-month customized industrial maintenance academy for Mars Wrigley employees in Waco.
“The training program is a prime example of the mission of TSTC to prepare students for great-paying jobs in Texas,” said Adam Barber, interim director of TSTC’s Workforce Training department.
The training began in July and involves alternating weeks at TSTC and working with experienced maintenance technicians at the company. Employees are industrial maintenance apprentices while they are in the program; once they successfully finish, they will be promoted to industrial maintenance technicians.
“It was very beneficial to have a technical college right down the road so we could do something like this,” said Jeremiah Courtright, Mars Wrigley’s reliability engineer.
Courtright said the accelerated teaching factors into the company’s employment goals. The company decided to look inward to train and promote certain employees who are chosen for their work ethic, technical ability and understanding of processes.
“It has become increasingly hard to recruit skilled industrial maintenance technicians,” Courtright said. “This is not just at Mars or in Waco, but it is a nationwide industry problem.”
The company, which has roughly 600-employees in Waco, needs maintenance technicians on-site seven days a week.
The company’s employees are at TSTC from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday, with most classes taking place at the Ideas Center.
Devin Gifford of Waco was a process technician for the plant’s product distribution side before being selected for the academy. He said he has enjoyed learning about electrical theory.
“It (the academy) definitely gives you the ability to test yourself at how much you have retained,” Gifford said.
Rayce Luke of Hewitt was an operator working on the Starburst candy production line before being selected for the program. She said because of the training, she is gaining a better understanding of how equipment works. On a recent class day at TSTC, Luke learned how to connect circuits and measure voltage.
“At first, I felt like an underdog,” she said of when she started the academy. “I came in here all new. I feel I have caught on pretty well.”
The academy had its first cohort in 2019, with the second group scheduled to finish next spring. Some of the topics that the employees are learning include motor controls and pneumatics.
“The Mars Wrigley apprenticeship academy is a model that has proven to be successful and has really provided industry a blueprint for training the next generation of technicians,” said Barber. ‘With the ability to tailor the training content for specific needs, there is a great opportunity for companies to follow in Mars’ footsteps and recognize the importance of providing the skills training necessary for their future workforce.”
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.