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Taking advantage of the local talent: Wacker partners with PCC to train within
Photos and Story by James Hill
By Chris MooreWe’ve all heard stories about people who worked their way up from the mailroom to the executive floor. While that kind of dramatic advancement may be rare, the desire to grow in the job, to get promoted and take on additional responsibility, is not.On-the-job experience is important, but for most of us, education is the key to getting ahead. Thanks to a partnership between Portland Community College’s Institute for Management and Professional Development (IMPD) and Wacker Siltronic, experienced employees are getting the chance to build management skills and prepare for promotion to shift leader."We don’t want to waste the experience and knowledge of our existing employees,"says Michelle Rose, manager of Personnel Training and Development at Wacker Siltronic’s Portland plant, which produces silicon wafers for the semiconductor industry. "By providing management training, we are helping them to compete with outside candidates who have college degrees."College credit and moreWacker’s Professional Program Award (PPA) in Management and Supervisory Development consists of 18 college credits in classes such as fundamentals of total quality management, data analysis for quality improvement, and fundamentals of production and inventory management. In addition to these customized, onsite classes, participants take courses online or on the PCC campus in accounting, business management, business writing, presentations, and interpersonal communication.These credits apply toward other programs as well. If they choose, participants can go on to earn an advanced certificate (equivalent to a one-year degree), or a two-year associate of science degree in management and supervisory development.Competition for program slots is keen, according to Rose. "Out of 30 applicants, seven people were chosen,"she says. "We looked for people who had filled in for shift leaders and who had a letter of recommendation from a shift leader. Each candidate also went through an interview process."Although not every applicant is accepted into the all-expenses-paid program, some of those who don’t get in are taking classes anyway. A number of current shift leaders are also taking advantage of the opportunity to polish their skills. Not qualified to applyWork cell leader Darci Meng has served as an acting shift leader several times in the past, but when an opening came along, she didn’t have the degree necessary to apply for the position. "Going to school for an associate’s degree is hard when you work 12 hours a day and have a family,"she says. "By getting into this program, I will be able to complete the degree that Wacker requires in a shorter period of time."Nick Hahn, also a work cell leader, is excited about being able to apply for jobs that require a degree. Once he’s finished the PPA, he plans to continue his education so he’ll be qualified to apply for a job as a supervisor or even a team leader. "The classes are going great so far,"Hahn says. "Instructor Gary Cross is doing a bang-up job."Work cell leader Narong Chengcharoen has been at Wacker Siltronic for almost 10 years. Like others in the program, he has filled in as a shift leader several times, but can’t apply for a permanent position without a degree. Chengcharoen has taken PCC classes in the past, but with his schedule — 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. — it’s difficult to find the time. "The onsite classes are offered at 4 p.m. so I can come to class and then go to work,"he says. A long-term relationshipPCC has worked closely with Wacker Siltronic since the plant was built in the late 1970’s. The college trained the first batch of workers hired, and continues to provide frontline training through its Customized and Workplace Training Department and management training through the IMPD."PCC is part of our organizational culture,"Rose says. "It is an extension of our company and a resource that helps us develop and maintain a highly skilled workforce. The college’s Microelectronics Technology program is also a key player in the local semiconductor industry. I think they provide the best education in the area."