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Walnut company sponsors first Learning Center

WALNUT — To ensure new employees are properly trained and have the necessary skills to do their job, a Walnut company recently held its first Learning Center.

Mike Maynard, president of TCI Manufacturing and Equipment Sales in Walnut, wanted to meet a need for the expanding company to have trained employees in the areas of steel fabrication and welding.

Four potential employees were able to attend a free, eight-week course during the evening to teach them MIG welding, Flux Core welding, basic blueprint reading and basic hand tools used in the industry.

Upon successful completion of training, the trainee was guaranteed employment with TCI Manufacturing or placed on the company’s preferred hiring list, meaning they would be the next people hired at the expanding company located on Route 92 west of Walnut.

“We had an overwhelming response to an ad placed in the Walnut Leader,” said Bev Lindsay, the safety coordinator of TCI Manufacturing, who accepted 29 applications to attend the first course where four people went through the training consisting of two nights a week for eight weeks.

“We had to turn several away,” she added. “We had more people than spaces. We aren’t sure when the next course will be held because of our expansion going on here.

“It was our intention to get good people to take the class and learn our way, so they could become good employees,” Lindsay said. “We wanted to attract local people. We thought that if people would put their time into it, they would stick around because they are local people.”

Many people previously hired to work at TCI Manufacturing weren’t from the immediate area and didn’t last long, company personnel said.

“We had one person who came from Streator to work here but didn’t last long because it was too far to drive,” said Josh Catton, who taught welding techniques for six weeks to the four students.

“We wanted to train people the way we wanted to train them and teach them the skills, and to get quality employees at the same time,” added Catton. “They didn’t need to have previous welding experience to attend the course.”

In addition to Catton teaching them welding skills, Lindsay instructed them on safety training for one week while Will Shane, engineering manager of TCI Manufacturing, trained them how to read blueprints the other week.

Jonathan Flowers and Jacob Renner, both of Walnut, were two trainees hired to work at TCI Manufacturing after taking the eight-week course.

“I had two full-time jobs (in Sterling) but wanted to work here because it is closer to home. I wanted to get better at welding,” said Flowers, a 2008 graduate of Bureau Valley High School. “A friend told me about it, and I learned a lot.”

Renner, a 2010 graduate of Bureau Valley High School, said he had a full-time job that would slow down in the winter and he would be laid off. He was tired of that cycle, so he wanted to gain some additional welding experience to get hired in this field, which is why he decided to enroll in the eight-week course.

The other two trainees will be the next people hired at the facility currently undergoing a 32,000-square-foot manufacturing addition and a 4,000-square-foot office addition.

Lindsay said since TCI Manufacturing is a custom fabrication shop, employees can do a different job every day they work. “It is always changing and challenging,” she said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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