By DAN HEATH
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Specialized classes at Clinton Community College are helping Jeffords Steel employees make the grade.
Jeffords Steel Vice President and Chief Financial Officer James Favreau said some of their employees are taking classes specifically targeted to the metal manufacturing industry.
The classes are taught by Michael Lawliss, who, Favreau said, has been instrumental in development of a curriculum and schedule to meet the company’s needs.
“He’s been fantastic,” Favreau said.
Lawliss is assisted by Doug Poquette and Dan Jones, two employees at Jeffords Steel with more than 30 years experience in the industry.
Poquette said it is really a skills-development class.
Students hone their math skills beyond the high-school or college level but also learn about all aspects of steel. Lessons are given on the use of blueprints, computer programs and modeling used in the industry.
Favreau said everything they do at Jeffords Steel is detailed in blueprints. The company is now heavily involved in computer-controlled equipment, which involves a lot of math and software applications, Poquette said.
“This is stuff they don’t get in high school,” he said.
SAVINGS FOR COMPANY
The training helps employees gain knowledge of the many ratings of steel and proper uses for each. That helps them use the right material for the right product, which saves the company money.
There is even some metric system training, as Jeffords Steel occasionally lands a project with metric specifications.
The equipment at Jeffords Steel operates at minimal tolerances and needs to be carefully calibrated, another area where employees improve their skills at Clinton.
Poquette said training helps reduce incidents of non-conforming product, which also saves the company money.
One of the requirements for Jeffords Steel to maintain its American Institute of Steel Construction certification is to document its employees ongoing training, Poquette said, and the classes are part of that effort.
This is the third group of Jeffords Steel employees to take the classes, which have been offered every two years. Sixteen employees took part in 2009, 11 in 2011 and 15 this year.
FITTING THE NEED
Paul DeDominicas, director of the Center for Community and Workforce Development at Clinton Community College, said one of the missions of his department is to help companies improve their employees’ skills.
The college can devise a course that fits around an employee’s work schedule. Favreau said that is a key, as the company needs the employees working to maintain production levels.
The college offers a company access to SUNY Workforce Development Grant funding, DeDominicas said, which can help offset the cost of the course. He said that on average, about 30 companies access those funds each year.
The courses are available to any company in Clinton County and can be tailored to each company’s specifications.
The college asks companies for letters of recommendation, DeDominicas said, and Jeffords Steel has always obliged. That community support makes it more likely the college will be able to access the grant funds, he said.
Poquette said many employees have risen with Jeffords Steel as a result of the courses.
“This is tailored quite well. It really works,” he said.
While participants don’t earn college credits, DeDominicas said, some who didn’t think they were college material come to realize they actually are.
“This helps them build confidence. It’s a nice boost.”
Email Dan Heathdheath@pressrepublican.com