ARCHIVED  August 1, 1997

Education, temp firms offer some alternatives

In a purely laissez-faire model of a capitalistic economy, there isn’t t a labor problem that would not and should not be solved by supply and demand.And to that extent, what is being called a labor shortage along the Front Range – at least, a skilled-labor shortage -is being addressed in the private sector.
Private training centers have opened, addressing a range of needs identified by manufacturing employers; and temporary-employment agencies are also taking up the slack, continuing their historical trend to encompass more and more of the employment scene.
But public-private partnership, in a fashion that might entitle President Clinton to wax eloquent for hours, is reacting with speed to a situation that puts this new deal to work for the benefit of the manufacturing community.
Blackfox Training Institute LLC of Longmont has been in existence for little more than a year, noted part-owner Jerry Ward. While Blackfox had been training employees for its affiliated firms for a number of years, it was only recently that its principals began to see the outside business opportunity as well.
“At first, we began to do some contract work for other electronic firms,” Ward said. “Then we determined there was a market here for training.”
Nobody knows that better than Kathy Egan, co-owner of Express Temporary Services in Greeley, Fort Morgan and Thornton, which is running a test program in an attitudinal class for prospective employees.
“But the training really begins the minute they walk in the door, and that first day is anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours,” she said.
Express has long offered customized training for individual companies, training that ranges from computer skills to turning screwdrivers, but it is also finding the work force is not just lacking in job-specific skills. Egan described her experimental course as an attitudinal course – one that addresses issues of longevity, attendance and attention to detail.
While providing this kind of training might seem to cut into Express’ own profits, Egan said that is not the case in today’s labor market.
“We work with our client companies in partnership,” she said. “Ultimately what is good for them is good for us.
Similar training occurs at On Call, which features offices in Boulder, Longmont and Greeley in addition to its regional office in Loveland, said Melissa Stuart.
The agency is providing electronic and mechanical-assembly training tutorials on a regular basis at the Loveland facility.
But most employment agencies are also heavily involved in providing training for the major clients, which often account for as much as 85 percent of their total business.
“We can do customized training, and just yesterday had a huge client come in,” Stuart said. “If a job requires a certain typing speed, then we can test for that, or candidates can also come in and practice.”
That sort of training by prospective employees has also become increasingly important to the firm, Stuart said. The agency provides computers on a regular basis for its clients who wish to train in Windows, or other specific applications such as Excel, as the company keeps a wealth of tutorials on hand.
In the education sector, much of the training is being driven by partnerships with industry, such as Front Range Community College’s new certificate program in Manufacturing Process Technologies, which debuts this fall. The program, encompassing 33 credit hours, will train potential employees for the biotechnology, brewing, petrochemical, paint and medical-products industries.
Companies in these areas are forced to look out of state to fill process technician positions because of a lack of trained workers in Colorado, states a press release from FRCC.
Aims Community College is also highly involved with training in partnership with local industries. As part of that effort, the college’s continuing-education program has also developed the Work Keys System that helps companies expand their work force.
Job profilers specifically identify the skills needed to perform a job at the company, and the information can be used to upgrade the skill level of the current work force, and as a screening device for the future work force.
Aims will administer the Work Keys assessments to determine the skill level of existing employees in relation to the requirements of their job. Based upon the results of the assessments, Aims can offer training specific to raising the educational level of the work force.
But perhaps no program delves more deeply into the educational system than the School to Career program initiated at Poudre School District R-1 in Fort Collins.
Dan Gasper, president of Norwest Bank in Fort Collins – Norwest is a major backer of School to Career – said that School to Career has already initiated a number of individual programs in the schools, including the critical skills course that all sophomores are required to take.
The course includes aptitude testing, as well as other work-force fundamentals, such as resume writing. The actual need for people with four-year degrees is declining, Gasper noted.
“There are very good-paying careers for which you don t need a college degree,” Gasper said.
In addition to the sophomore class, School to Career has also been involved in mentor and shadowing program as well as intern possibilities for students.
“We think it’s right on track,” Gasper said. But the program could be making even more of an impact if more community members were involved, he said.
“Everybody needs to roll up their sleeves and take a shot at it,” he said. “There needs to be better community recognition of how we’re getting our young people ready for the work force. It’s up to every one of us to make that happen.”

In a purely laissez-faire model of a capitalistic economy, there isn’t t a labor problem that would not and should not be solved by supply and demand.And to that extent, what is being called a labor shortage along the Front Range – at least, a skilled-labor shortage -is being addressed in the private sector.
Private training centers have opened, addressing a range of needs identified by manufacturing employers; and temporary-employment agencies are also taking up the slack, continuing their historical trend to encompass more and more of the employment scene.
But public-private partnership, in a fashion that…

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