Imagine walking into a room to find a virtual chemical manufacturing plant projected onto a big screen.
Imagine you’re the operator of such a plant.
Imagine walking through your virtual plant, noting that if a fairly large pipe carrying a hot liquid remains where it’s currently placed, you and your colleagues will smack your heads on it each time you walk down that particular passageway.
Now imagine the costs associated with changing the placement of this large pipe if you hadn’t discovered this problem before construction of your plant started.
These cost and time savings are brought to you, Mr. Plant Operator, courtesy of Perigon International, Inc., with training support to make it happen provided by Charlotte Works.
Employees of the 33-year-old, Matthews-based engineering and design firm completed training in three-dimensional (3-D) modeling software in December 2015. It was paid for with the company’s third Incumbent Workforce Training Grant (IWTG). The competitive program provides training grants of up to $10,000 for employers to address skills gaps among existing workers and positively impact the company’s stability.
“It allows us to keep our working staff sharp and ahead of the curve on the tools we need to compete, and do it in a cost-effective and judicious manner,” says Dean Norwood, president and chief operating officer.
“America has to be more competitive. We’re offshoring our computer skills, and we need to bring them back home and be more competitive,” Harvey Mason, Perigon’s founder and chief executive officer, adds. “This [training] allows individuals to get skills in the changing workplace. Training is so important because if you stop where you are, you never get to make new footprints in the sand.”
Teri Carter, HR/accounting manager, first learned about the IWTG program from The Employers Association newsletter and thought it was too good to be true. She attended an information session about the program and applied for Perigon’s first grant in 2011.
Three grants over the past five years totaling nearly $29,000 have trained 17 employees in the use of various 3-D modeling software programs for plant piping, equipment and steel models. Additionally, one employee was trained in electrical power systems software and another earned a human resources certificate.
“It’s enabled HR to become a strategic partner in the company by finding and funding training,” says Carter, who plans to apply for a fourth grant to provide additional 3-D training that will allow the company’s engineers to expand their expertise to better serve the pharmaceutical industry. (The lifetime limit for a single employer for IWTG grants is $40,000.)
Meanwhile, Mason says the training provided through the ITWG program boosts his company’s competitiveness. “We sell this to our customers. It’s important for them to see the value we bring to them because the quality of our time spent and our work is increased.”
These grants provide an opportunity for our workers to get knowledge that no one can take away from them and that will follow them throughout their careers.
Harvey Mason, Perigon founder and chief executive officer
He notes that the models his engineers produce are used for processes such as determining clearances and precision fitting, and reducing material waste. “The detailed drawings have to be within tolerances of a quarter of an inch – sometimes smaller,” Mason says. “In the old days, you would have to do manual calculations. Now with the computer, you can order to the exact measures and have no piles of construction waste.”
“The 3-D modeling software allows the constructor to do much less adding and subtracting because the model is so detailed,” agrees Norwood. “They can get it built much faster, which is a great advantage for clients because time is money and this tool condenses the schedule.”
He also appreciates the benefits the training offers to Perigon’s employees. “It’s given them insight on a formal level that previously, they often got on their own time. The trainers showed us shortcuts on how to design a piping system, tricks-of-the-trade that you can’t find on your own,” Norwood says. “They have a confidence in attacking a problem and a budget on their own. It makes them more employable and valuable employees.”
Another advantage to the IWTG is its effect on Pergion’s retention rate. Norwood notes that it’s far less expensive to keep employees sharp on their skills than it is to find and train other employees in today’s current tough market.
Roger Carithers is a design group leader who’s a 29-year veteran of Perigon and participated in all the training. He likens the effect of the training on his job to trying to build a backyard shed: “You can get the materials and try to put it together on your own, but if you had someone to tell you what to do and show you the proper steps, you could get it done faster with a better finished product.”
He, too, says the training has made him and his team more efficient and effective in their work and sees long-lasting results. “We’ve seen positive results from the training want to go through more of it! Our goal is to be the ones sharing technology with our clients, not the clients sharing it with us. We’ve become more valuable to the company and it’s given us the confidence to go out and be leaders in this industry.”
Learn more about our Incumbent Workforce Training Grant program.