KCC assessment trainers help improve hiring process for local manufacturers

Shane Bresson, HVAC-R and Pipefitting instructor at Kellogg Community College, demonstrates one of the College’s new assessment trainers, which measures mechanical aptitude.

A batch of new assessment machines installed at Kellogg Community College’s Regional Manufacturing Technology Center shows promise at taking some of the guesswork out of the hiring process for local manufacturers.

For companies looking to hire skilled workers in the manufacturing field, the cost of a bad hire can be high – particularly in a field where employees are working with equipment that can range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace in the event of an error or mistake.

Tom Longman, director of the RMTC, said the College’s new equipment offers a solution that can help companies more effectively and efficiently gauge the aptitude of a potential new employee or apprentice, leading to better hiring decisions and potential cost avoidance.

“The potential savings in dollars is substantial,” Longman said. “Making a bad hire can cost a company a significant amount of money. If we could help them sort that out beforehand, it could save that company a lot of time and a lot of money.”

The new equipment installed at the RMTC includes four assessment trainers: an electrical skills trainer, a programmable logic controller (PLC) trainer, a mechanical trainer and a process control trainer, all of which provide a safe and controlled way for instructors to test the knowledge and skills of trainees in skilled trades tasks without the risks associated with a live manufacturing environment. Trainees or potential recruits are introduced to the machines and then asked to leave the room while a trained instructor sets up “fault scenarios” the trainee must then assess and fix within a certain amount of time.

Longman said the tools give companies a more valid and quantifiable way to measure and compare the abilities of potential employees than they would otherwise get via something like a job interview alone.

“It gives them a more concrete way to prescreen potential new employees or to gauge the skills of a possible apprentice,” Longman said. “It’s a lot better than just looking at someone’s resume.”

DENSO Manufacturing Michigan, Inc. (DMMI) recently used the equipment to assess nearly 50 of the company’s current electricians, machine repairmen and tool and die makers to create a baseline used to measure the abilities of potential hires against those of the company’s existing skills trades staff, Longman said. Since the baseline assessment, DMMI has been testing potential hires at the RMTC; companies like DMMI that offer registered apprenticeship programs may also use the assessment devices to screen potential candidates before enrolling them into their programs.

“These new assessment tools have been validated globally, so bringing this capability to Battle Creek is a real asset for our company and the community,” said Keith Corlin, Plant Engineering and Facilities director at DMMI. “DENSO has world-class manufacturing equipment, so we need to have the most talented journeymen on our skilled trades team. Access to this equipment gives us an objective way of identifying those people quickly and confidently.”

The trainers, which together cost approximately $63,000, were funded through a $2.1 million package of resources funneled to KCC through the state’s Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program (CCSTEP) last year. CCSTEP resources were combined with matching grants to fund new equipment at KCC – including the assessment trainers at the RMTC – with the goal of making student and worker training in the communities KCC serves quicker and more comprehensive and efficient.

“Finding the right skilled trades person is a challenge,” Longman said. “These assessment trainers, made possible through the CCSTEP funds, are helping KCC respond to this challenge with our manufacturing partners to make selecting and training their people more efficient.”

For more information about assessment or apprenticeship training at KCC’s RMTC, contact RMTC Director Tom Longman at 269-965-4137 or longmant@kellogg.edu. For more information about new equipment purchased through CCSTEP funds for KCC, click here.

Pictured in the photo above, Shane Bresson, HVAC-R and Pipefitting instructor at Kellogg Community College, demonstrates one of the College’s new assessment trainers, which measures mechanical aptitude.