east penn plant photo

East Penn values NICC Sector Board role in workforce development

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The close proximity of the NICC Regional Academy for Math and Science (RAMS) and Oelwein Center, and the Regional Tech Complex adjacent to the center, allows local companies to access formal training programs affordably.

Photo of LaTonya HolmesFAYETTE COUNTY–Developing the area’s workforce talent, whether the skills employees need include computer networking, leadership strategies or Lean manufacturing, can seem like trying to hit a moving target. Identifying these skilled workforce needs, however, is a process made far simpler through partnerships among decision-makers.

The Greater Oelwein Business, Education and Community Sector Board formed with this purpose in mind, and its ongoing conversations can impact new employee recruitment and retention initiatives, and provide a forum to share best practices. Northeast Iowa Community College developed these boards to encourage discussion among educators, economic development officials and local business leaders, and to help members prepare for the future.

LaTonya Holmes, East Penn Manufacturing Co. Learning and Development Advisor, is a member of the Sector Board. The company partnered with the College to invest in training for its employees to stay current in the manufacturing field and foster an environment of continuous improvement. Ongoing dialogues with NICC about training options help the company meet its skilled workforce needs.  

“Participating in the Sector Board has provided a great opportunity to learn about the community and the opportunities available to those who reside there. We discuss changes that are happening in education, industry, government and community. It’s a great way to network with others and learn how we can work together to promote growth in Fayette County,” stated Holmes.

One of 10 Business and Community/Sector Boards in the NICC district, the Greater Oelwein Business, Education and Community Sector Board serves as a catalyst for workforce development, explained Wendy Mihm-Herold, Ph.D., NICC vice president of business and community solutions.

“Our business leaders in Oelwein and Fayette County participate in these critical  conversations to assess new opportunities and workforce challenges. Their insights help Northeast Iowa Community College and educators identify the skills employees need, and the most effective strategies to train individuals on these skills. Our conversations with business partners enhance our workforce,” Mihm-Herold said.

Business and Community/Sector Boards in the district represent many industries, including: agriculture, food and natural resources; arts, communication and information systems; applied sciences, technology, engineering and manufacturing; health sciences; human services; and business, finance, marketing and management.

Employee training options available through Northeast Iowa Community College for East Penn Manufacturing, and many local industries, encourage business expansion and investment, Holmes noted. 

“Our business uses many forms of automation, technology and logistics to keep us successful and competitive in our industry. It’s important that we provide ongoing training to those employees who continue to help the business grow and can foster new talents that come through the door. The 260E Iowa New Jobs Training Program, in particular, allows us to use the latest technology to train our maintenance staff and to ensure they are knowledgeable about what tools they need to be successful in their field,” Holmes explained.

District-wide in 2018, NICC invested $3,015,000 in the 260E Iowa New Jobs Training Program, creating 364 jobs. In Fayette County, 2,544 Business and Community Solutions course registrations were processed for 1,377 individuals in healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing and career development. At the Oelwein Center, 365 Business and Community Solutions students generated 467 non-credit course registrations.

The close proximity of the NICC Regional Academy for Math and Science (RAMS) and Oelwein Center, and the Regional Tech Photo of Bob BouskaComplex adjacent to the center, allows local companies to access formal training programs affordably.

“The Oelwein Center provides an opportunity for us to stay connected with the services offered by our local community college without having to venture beyond our community. The center provides training solutions that are important to keep our workforce adequately trained and our skills up-to-date. We also have access to knowledgeable and professional staff at the NICC Oelwein Center,” said Bob Bouska, East Penn Manufacturing Co. Plant Manager.

The Greater Oelwein Business, Education and Community Sector Board provides critical, impactful connections between businesses, educators, economic development and workforce agencies. The objective is to serve stakeholders through the exchange of information and implementation of workforce solutions based on shared goals and human capital needs, leading to measurable results to help grow our businesses and communities.

For more information on services offered through the RAMS and Oelwein Center, and representation on the Sector Board, contact Terri Rubner, center director, at (319) 283-3010 or rubnert@nicc.edu.


ABOUT EAST PENN MANUFACTURING CO: East Penn is one of the world’s leading battery manufacturers with over 8,000 employees, 450 product designs and hundreds of awards for manufacturing and environmental excellence. The company’s focus is on their customers and co-workers, striving for the highest quality in everything they do.