McNeilus program benefits workers
JoJo Wright had been working in the assembly area at McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing when he decided to give a new program that would train him as a welder a try.
He started the program early this year and after four weeks he was OSHA safety certified and had a certificate in welding. Today, he has advanced further and is now working as a supervisor on the line.
The program, said McNeilus’ Chad Kleist can “take people who have never welded before and after four weeks they can hit the line running.”
The company started the program in October 2018 and by last week had graduated 55 new welders with another five individuals ready to start the program. The addition of welders is important to the company that employs 1,200 people in Dodge Center. About 900 of those employees work on the line and about 200 of those are welders. Others work in Customer Support Services and the company has its own research and development and engineering departments.
For the employee, company officials said, it is an opportunity to move into the middle class through improved wages and the opportunity to advance.
Last week the company celebrated the accomplishents with a short program attended by officials from state agencies who helped get the program up and running, school districts, Riverland Community College and the company employees who have learned the new skills.
The program is a partnership between McNeilus, the State of Minnesota and Riverland Community College. It is taught by instructors from Riverland and financially supported by a $150,000 initial state grant with another $150,000 grant approved.
“We’re excited about this program,” said McNeilus Truck President Brad Nelson. “This is business, education coming together to solve a problem. This is changing peoples’ lives.”
Program participants include both new employees looking for a skill and current McNeilus employees seeking to “upskill.”
Even an current employee who took the class but decided to return to their previous job at the company still has gained skills and perspectives that makes him or her a better employee, officials said.
For Wright, the class has made a big difference. A Rochester resident, his enthusiasm for his job and the program was obvious during his comments to the assembled group last week.
He had been working at McNeilus before taking the class but had always believed that a career in welding was beyond his ability. The program changed that, he said, giving him the confidence he needed to advance in his career.
He recalled the old quote about giving a man a fish you feed him for a day but if you teach him to fish you feed him for a lifetime.
“That’s what the program has meant to me,” he said. “You invested in me as a person and I want to take it out to my community.”
The program has helped the company, Kleist said, but it has not solved the problem. They still need more welders, he said, and could hire 20 or 30 immediately.
McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing manufactures concrete mixers and refuse hauler trucks. The company makes the boxes and drums for the vehicles and mounts them but does not make the chassis. Between 20-40 mixers can be completed in a week and 50-60 refuse haulers.