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Business2Business: Ridgewater College provides customized training for businesses

Jeremy Amundson is an engineering manager at Willmar Fabrication, where Human Resources Manager Angela Koosman reached out to Ridgewater College’s Customized Training & Continuing Education program to help train managers and team members. Tribune photo by Ron Adams1 / 3
Angela Koosman, Human Resources manager at Willmar Fabrication, reached out to Ridgewater College for some customized training for plant managers and team members. Tribune photo by Ron Adams2 / 3
Shelley Halvorson sorts parts packages at Willmar Fabrication. Tribune photo by Ron Adams3 / 3

WILLMAR — When Willmar Fabrication realized its business was growing and expanding to the point where not everyone had the training they needed to completely fulfill their job duties, Human Resources Manager Angela Koosman reached out to Ridgewater College's Customized Training & Continuing Education program.

The program provides workforce development for businesses in the region, explains Sam Bowen, dean of the Customized Training & Continuing Education program at the college.

"They've created a variety of programs based on our needs," Koosman said. "They worked very closely with us to develop programs for us on leadership, engineering and lean manufacturing."

Bowen said his team works with businesses to develop programs based on what they need.

"It's part of Ridgewater's goals to do whatever we can to make sure the businesses here continue to grow," Bowen said. "We custom develop curriculum to fit the businesses' needs, and sometimes that takes many different paths."

Bowen said the customized training program contracted with 213 different businesses last year, which doesn't include the businesses who sent employees to Ridgewater for classes. The program served a total of 17,186 workers from around the region.

"Unlike training companies from the Twin Cities, we know the businesses," Bowen said. "We have relationships with them. They're not as vested in that business as we are."

Not only does the customized training program employ 15 people to lead classes, they also employ adjunct faculty, consisting of community experts and Ridgewater College professors, and can tap into the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities' system and bring in professors from other schools.

"We have a wonderful partnership with Ridgewater," Koosman said. "We feel like they are a partner with our business. They came in as an outsider and have helped grow our people."

Koosman said Willmar Fabrication faced a dilemma as the business started rapidly growing a few years ago.

"We realized we had several new managers and supervisors who had never been in leadership roles, so we needed training there," Koosman said. "Then, our engineering department was growing and we decided we should bring in training about stress management, which even some of our older engineers said they'd never received training in. This training means we can still hire qualified people, even if they haven't had some of the training."

Later this summer, Willmar Fabrication will go through lean manufacturing training to revamp their production floor, with the help of Ridgewater.

While Willmar Fabrication formed a partnership with Ridgewater several years ago - looking for help writing a grant - some businesses don't know who to reach out to, and that's where Julie Redepenning comes in.

"I'm a resource person for businesses, so I focus on the healthcare and manufacturing sectors," said Redepenning, a business service specialist for the Minnesota Workforce Center in Willmar. "I go to businesses and see what they need. Then I'll contact Ridgewater and help them partner with a business."

Redepenning said she partners businesses with Ridgewater, because they offer services that most training centers cannot.

"The main benefit is that they can quickly and effectively design and deliver customized training," Redepenning said. "It's not a cookie cutter program that is taught to every business. They can also go to other colleges in the MnSCU system, so that means the resources available to us expand."

Koosman said Willmar Fabrication will continue to partner with Ridgewater College for its customized training.

"Our needs are constantly changing, and Ridgewater understands those changes," she said. "They know and understand our business, which is needed to be able to provide the training we need."

Ridgewater College's Customized Training & Continuing Education program provides training in leadership, management, human resources, computers, customer service, welding, programming, lean manufacturing, industrial and construction safety and health care. They also offer first responder, CPR, EMT, advanced cardiovascular life support and pediatric advanced life support certifications.

"We've seen the most growth with our health care training and have a mobile simulation vehicle that can go right up to the doorstep of any health care business," Bowen said. "It's been pretty successful."

Other certifications offered include boiler operation, food service safety, low voltage operator and OSHA.

"We serve this huge, wide area, but our role is to partner with the workforce and employees to enhance what they do," Bowen said.

Kayla Prasek

Kayla Prasek is a staff writer for Prairie Business magazine. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Contemporary Media & Journalism and Political Science programs and is originally from Watertown, S.D. She previously was the city reporter at the Watertown Public Opinion.

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