Between 2018 and 2019, Weyerhaeuser completed several capital projects and equipment upgrades which cost nearly 80 million dollars. All the new equipment presented a need for additional staff training due to technical advancements. Weyerhaeuser knows that building their employees’ skill set is critical to support these capital projects and allows their mill to continue to be a strong business influence in their community. New equipment isn’t the only reason Weyerhaeuser needs to train staff. Over the next several years, they expect five to ten retirements each year due to the tenure of their workforce. They have hired over 60 new employees in the last five years and have begun hiring new staff a year in advance of anticipated retirements in efforts to ensure that technical skills are transferred to new hires. During this effort to build technical depth in their new hires, they provide individuals with training specific to their equipment, programming, policies/procedures as well as providing above and beyond MIOSHA required safety training. These efforts are not only to keep their staff aware of cutting edge technologies, but also prepare them to deal with upset conditions, which may occur in the Manufacturing Sector. Several of these positions are their most technical and managerial roles within the mill and they continuously prepare for additional departures by developing strong succession plans, which include extensive training and expertise be obtained by their current workforce.
With the help of Michigan Works! Northeast Consortium, Weyerhaeuser received $15,739 in Going PRO Training Funds to train 20 existing workers. Trainings included welding, leadership, and smoke school, with trainings provided by Kirtland Community College and Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. Having staff trained in these critical areas will help Weyerhaeuser fill vacancies from within, as senior employees retire.
“Welding is a critical skill for our mill,” states Kelly Cipponeri, HR Manager at Weyerhaeuser. “The welding course at Kirtland created an opportunity for us to add a skill set to 8 of our mill members. This grant and partnership with Kirtland created an opportunity that we would not have been able to provide otherwise.”
Kelly continues, “The Leadership training was hosted through Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. When asked ‘how do you plan to incorporate these skills into your daily work?’, responses included they would have a better approach to conflict and giving feedback. These are two areas that can be challenging, especially for newer leaders, so we were excited to hear that feedback!”
“We also utilized the funds for smoke school. The smoke school certification or visible emissions training is a requirement by the EPA and allows us to be compliant with certain permits. By adding this skill to additional members of our mill, we are providing learning opportunities for more people and ensuring the mill’s continued compliance with regulations.”
In addition to the Going PRO Talent Fund, Weyerhaeuser also takes advantage of other Michigan Works! training programs – training 3 new hires in 2021 thanks to the On-The-Job Training program.