Written by Misty Schwab
Feb. 15, 2021
Participants who enroll in the free Daikin-sponsored community training program will learn five key areas of the manufacturing industry. Pictured, a Daikin employee handles materials for heating and cooling equipment. (Photo courtesy of Daikin Applied)
Working at Daikin Applied requires knowledge of manufacturing, but a 2018 needs assessment suggests employees need more than orientation to acquire those tools.
Employees indicated in the assessment that they enjoyed their jobs but wanted more training before working the plant floors. Daikin listened, and now, prospective employees for the company’s Faribault and Owatonna locations can enroll in a free community training program before they even submit their application. The pilot program, a 40-hour training, takes place from Feb. 22 to March 5 at the Faribault Education Center and South Central College Faribault campus. The opportunity applies to anyone with a high school diploma or general educational diploma (GED).
“Daikin reached out to Community Education about a year ago because they find it challenging to retain their staff, and it’s most likely because the staff they hire don’t have the skills they need,” said Faribault Adult Education and Enrichment Coordinator Cassie Ohnstad.
George Chapple, Daikin professional training manager, observed the knowledge gap firsthand.
“I took it upon myself to go into a couple of sessions of orientation, and about 65% couldn’t identify basic hand tools and what they were used for,” Chapple said. “From that standpoint, we would like to see people coming in already with that basic knowledge.”
Chapple has two types of Daikin candidates in mind for the training program. The first group consists of individuals who want to apply to Daikin but first want more experience in manufacturing. The second pool might include candidates who already presented strong resumes with prior experience in other working environments, like retail, but otherwise lack the manufacturing skills needed at Daikin, which manufactures commercial air conditioning units.
Adult students who enroll in the training will acquire skills in five key areas. A blend of Daikin employees and Community Education instructors prepared lessons on manufacturing basics, hand and power tools, reading blueprints, precision measurements and electrical wiring. In future training programs, Chapple also wants instructors to present an entire unit on brazing, the practice of using high temperatures to join metals together.
While it won’t be offered for the pilot training program, brazing is a topic Daikin Training Coordinator George Chapple wants employees to introduce to prospective workers in the future. Pictured, a Daikin employee brazes pipes on an air-conditioning unit. (Photo courtesy of Daikin Applied)
Since Daikin wants to offer the training continuously, Ohnstad encourages anyone interested to get on the waiting list. At least five need to sign up in order for Community Ed to offer the program, she said, and four already signed up as of last week. During the coronavirus pandemic, the two locations have capped the number of participants at five to allow for social distancing.
The training does not guarantee employment, but Daikin will offer phone interviews to those who complete the training. Hired workers will start with production line and sub assembly jobs at $18.38 per hour, and Chapple said they may receive more training in specific areas after getting through the door.
A level one evaluation will follow the first training, Chapple said, to give participants a chance to offer feedback on the training’s length and content. The instructors will then adjust the program as necessary for the next group of participants.
Through the training program, Chapple hopes Daikin partners see the benefits of investing in the local community and notice the correlation between keeping individuals employed and helping a community grow. After being at Daikin for three years, Chapple said he’s impressed that the company supports his innovation in developing employees for community success.
“At the end of the day, we want people to be proud of where they work,” Chapple said. “… When they tell others they work at Daikin, I hope they say it’s a company that invests in its employees and the community where they work.”
Deanna Kuennen, director of community and economic development for the city of Faribault, says Daikin is a leader in identifying workforce pathways for individuals, which she considers a benefit to the community as a whole.
Faribault’s progress in affordable housing, secured with three separate developments being completed over the course of this year, could in turn benefit Daikin. Kuennen had promised in December 2020 to use the resources of the city’s Economic Development Authority to deliver affordable housing, understanding that families want to work in areas where they can afford to live. Daikin, with its increased need for workers, made the need for affordable housing more dire.
“I’m super excited that Faribault seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of others as it comes to workforce development,” Kuennen said. “I know our Chamber is doing some amazing things in connection with our industries, South Central College and the high school, and then I know that our industries such as Daikin are doing things that will specifically help them in the long run but have a broader impact on the community.”
In partnership with Faribault Community Education, Daikin Applied begins offering its free 40-hour community training program Feb. 22 through March 5 at the Faribault Education Center and South Central College.
The training is offered in partnership with Faribault Adult Education, SCC, Fastenal, CareerForce and Workforce Development, Inc. To find out how to enroll, call 507-333-6472 or text 507-330-4210.
Daikin Applied employs 3,500 people in the U.S. and Canada, and 1,200 are employed between the three manufacturing facilities in Minnesota (two in Faribault, one in Owatonna). Visit daikinapplied.com for more information about the company.
Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty.
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