Upskilling local workers to fill high-demand jobs is the aim of a new maintenance mechanic training program offered at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.
The first cohort of students to complete the training program were recognized in a Monday morning ceremony at the SVHEC. The customized program offered through Danville Community College and hosted by the SVHEC gives Hitachi Energy employees the opportunity to gain new skills to help them advance their careers, in a hands-on learning environment.
“Each of you has decided to invest in yourself and your future,” Dr. Cornelius Johnson, vice president of academic affairs and student services at DCC, said to the program completers. “Kudos to you and kudos to Hitachi for investing in their workforce. Big congratulations to you as you continue to invest in yourself and your future.”
A total of 19 students completed the training program, which started in the summer of 2021 and wrapped up in December. The students attended the program three days per week, a couple of hours each day, while working their regular jobs at Hitachi Energy’s manufacturing facility in South Boston.
“This program allowed individuals to learn more about the maintenance aspect of working in an industrial environment,” Cheryl Terry, dean of career and technical education at DCC, shared in an overview of the program. “If a machine breaks down, that means production is down. That means we need somebody right now to fix this machine. And that is what you all have been learning to do.”
The customized maintenance mechanic training program covered various safety and health topics, as well as National Center for Construction Education and Research credentials, up to Level 3.
“Your achievements include earning industry-recognized credentials and certificates that represent your expanded knowledge and your increased technical skills,” Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens, chief workforce development officer at SVHEC, stated, addressing the program completers. “I also congratulate the partnership between Hitachi Energy, DCC and the SVHEC … Together, we provided this workforce training opportunity and together we share in the results in your commitment, your efforts and your achievements.”
SVHEC Executive Director Dr. Betty Adams also congratulated the program completers and commented on the value of the training they received in today’s workforce.
“There was a time when the only way to advance your career was by getting a college degree. Those days are long gone,” Adams said. “College degrees are still important in some jobs…But today technical training can be just as important to advancing your career as a college degree.”
Adams added, “You have made sacrifices to be here today. I just want to thank you for your commitment, for your hard work, and wish you congratulations and all the best as you continue in your careers with Hitachi.”
Hitachi Energy regional factory manager Joey Chandler explained the catalyst that sparked the maintenance mechanic training program.
“We were really struggling to find maintenance technicians for our maintenance program that we were completely rebuilding,” Chandler shared.
Chandler and Ryland Clark, community relations and engagement manager for Hitachi Energy, worked together on a proposal for the program, and partnered with DCC and SVHEC to make it happen. The factory manager said the program has been a “wonderful solution” to the problem of finding skilled maintenance technicians to fill open maintenance positions at the factory.
“Good maintenance technicians who are tenacious, resourceful problem solvers are really hard to find,” Chandler remarked. “The education that these employees went through will play right into that.”
Chandler added the employees such as those who completed the maintenance mechanic training program also would be well suited to move into Hitachi Energy’s drafting and design programs in the future.
Monday’s maintenance mechanic training program completion ceremony was a first for Hitachi Energy employees, but it will not be the last.
“We hope that this is the first of many graduation ceremonies that we will have for our employees as a team,” Clark said.
Curtis Francisco, who has been employed with Hitachi Energy for one year, was among the training program completers. When asked what his dream job would be, Francisco replied, “What I’m doing now.”
Francisco recently started a new position in maintenance after completing the maintenance mechanic training program. His new job entails fixing machinery that breaks down at the plant and doing preventative maintenance as well.
“I wanted to further my career and Hitachi worked with me and gave me the opportunity to do that,” Francisco stated. He said the program taught him many “technical aspects” of maintenance mechanics such as hydraulics and pneumatics.
Chandler said he plans to continue to look for ways to provide additional training and opportunities for career advancement for his employees at Hitachi Energy in the future.
From The Gazette-Virginian