Customized Training Programs: Finding The Perfect Fit

Everywhere from factory floors to research labs to virtual space—and every work space in between—today’s customized training programs are ensuring that new hires quickly get up to speed.

By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2021 Issue

Way back when (at the turn of the century), workforce development was synonymous with training. The primary training tools employed by EDOs to secure new projects involved cash or tax incentives. The pitch was simple: if your company brings its jobs to our location, we’ll help offset the cost of training them.

Today, workforce development begins with high schools steering kids into STEM programs that develop brain-muscle memory for data-driven tech skills; it blossoms at community colleges and universities that have created industry-specific degree programs and innovation/research centers, working in tandem with growth sector leaders, start-ups and tech giants. EDOs at all levels are partnering with government and industry to create world-class training centers in robotics, cybersecurity, machine learning, computer science, software engineering and just about any other growth sector you can name.

The training needed to close the 21st century skills gap in America is highly customized; it can take place in virtual space and laboratories as well as on factory floors, and sometimes it begins before a worker is hired.

Today’s customized training programs are highly specialized, geared to matching a specific skill-set to a specific worker, but the pandemic has shown us that some of the best programs are those than can adapt on the fly. Read on and meet the customized training leaders.


Workforce development services provided by AIDT are among the strongest incentives for businesses who choose to locate or expand in Alabama. Since 1971, AIDT has assisted companies with recruiting, assessing and training more than 970,000 job seekers.

AIDT’s mission is to provide quality workforce development for Alabama’s new and expanding companies, and to expand the opportunities of its citizens through the jobs these businesses create. AIDT designs and creates a fully customized training experience and delivers quality candidates to meet the hiring needs of any industry.

customized training programs
Alabama Robotics Technology Park near Decatur is a world-class robotics training facility that serves companies in the state. (Photo:

Recognized among the nation’s top workforce training programs by industry observers, AIDT’s training produces a workforce that employers recognize for high performance achievement. This is a result of both the technical assessment and training that AIDT trainees receive, and the process by which they are selected. AIDT currently holds an ISO 9001:2015 certification for quality and continuous improvement.

For nearly 50 years, AIDT has stayed at the forefront of workforce development through its innovative approaches to common issues, and its ability to partner with education and industry leaders, as well as other state agencies. This includes the continuous evolution of training techniques such as e-learning through modules and webinars, virtual reality training and more traditional hands-on learning.

During the COVID-19 crisis, AIDT has remained committed to serving employers and job-seekers alike by taking the lead in transitioning all compatible training to online learning and modifying recruitment techniques to better serve job seekers.

AIDT operates four main training centers throughout the state, in addition to several smaller sites that are geared toward assisting specific companies. Mobile Training Units (MTU) are also available at company request, creating a mobile classroom that can be tailored to company needs and delivered anywhere across the state. All of AIDT’s training classes are offered at no cost to the company or the individual.

The Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP) in Tanner, Alabama, boasts an impressive three-building campus—each of which targets specific skill sets within the robotics industry—and a testing track. The Alabama RTP launched its next phase of training called RTP 2.0 in January 2020. RTP 2.0 has shifted the focus to Industry 4.0 training as well as additive manufacturing. The RTP is a leader in robotics training, enabling manufacturers to take advantage of innovative robotics instruction for their employees while maintaining production, and avoiding downtime.

The Alabama Workforce Training Center (AWTC) in Birmingham offers training classes in the construction trades and in several areas of manufacturing, all based on the industry needs in the state. Trainees include existing employees who desire to enhance their skills for higher-level work in their trade, students who have shown an interest in construction or manufacturing trades through their local schools or community college technical programs and citizens who want to complete training and go directly to work. The ultimate goal is to provide entry-level training, existing-employee-upgrade training, two-year technical college level training and K-12 career training to adequately supply businesses with a trained and ready workforce.

In the capital city, the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center (MRWTC) provides various opportunities, including entry-level training, employee upskilling and training in programs often found in two-year colleges, as well as K-12 career training, to adequately supply businesses with a trained workforce for the Montgomery region. One of the most successful programs offered is the Basic Machining Program, which offers in-depth training and produces quality graduates who are working within weeks of their graduation. Business and industry leaders across the River Region have expressed interest in future graduates of the program, finding that they are equipped with critical knowledge and skills to fill their needs.

At the Maritime Training Center in Mobile, Alabama, the primary focus is supporting the needs of the robust maritime industry. Dozens of classes are offered quarterly for workers who are looking to jumpstart an exciting career, or brush up on their skills.

AIDT’s training efforts in Mobile are also taking flight in the form of the Alabama Aviation Training Center, which supports the growing aerospace industry. This state-of-the-art facility houses classes such as safety, quality, computer and leadership development, as well as specific Airbus technical courses and new hire orientations.


Virginia offers companies a choice of workforce development incentives, including the state’s customized training and recruiting program, as well as grant funding that permits companies to choose training and recruitment providers.

The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program provides recruiting and training services fully customized to a company’s unique jobs, operation and culture. The program is led by a highly experienced team, hired from the private sector, and all services are provided free of charge as an incentive for job creation.

customized training programs
The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program recruited and trained workers for Morgan Olson’s new step van assembly line in Danville, VA—before they were actually hired—cutting in half the time the company needed to get to full production. (Photo: Morgan Olsen)

Since its launch, the results generated by the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program have been impressive. Morgan Olson’s step-van assembly plant in Danville, VA is a good case in point.

The company started hiring assemblers and fabricators for its new, $57.8 million, 703-job step van production facility in March of 2020.

The original plan projected that it would take three years for the operation to reach 703 employees. Now Morgan Olson is on track to reach that milestone in about half the time, with the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program playing a vital role in accelerating the start-up. In addition to expediting the new hire training process, the program has helped Morgan Olson dramatically reduce new-hire turnover relative to other plants, according to Mike Ownbey, Morgan Olson President Mike Ownbey.

“In our other plants across the country, we have about a 50 percent first-year attrition rate from employees coming in the door. In Virginia, we only have a 10 percent rate, which is amazing. I credit it all to the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program,” Ownbey said.

Mike Grundmann, senior vice president, Talent Solutions, at Virginia Economic Development Partnership told BF that the key to the success rate at Morgan Olson was the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program’s commitment to start training recruits before they actually were hired, ensuring that the candidates selected for these jobs are a good fit for the company.

After a project is announced, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program’s job-specific training work begins. This training is fully customized to a client’s unique processes, equipment, procedures and standards. A Virginia Talent Accelerator Program team travels to an existing client facility with similar operations to observe the process and specific work being performed by equipment operators. The team works closely with the client’s operations and human resource officials to understand their best practices for recruiting and training.

A company’s commitment to locating in a state often precedes the public announcement by a few weeks. The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program team recognizes that this interim period is a unique opportunity to leverage the publicity generated by the announcement to attract top talent. That was the case with Civica Rx, a new $125 million,186-job pharmaceuticals manufacturing project in Petersburg, VA. The team immediately went to work producing a variety of videos to tell the story of Civica’s Virginia career opportunities and assembling a recruitment advertising buy. The videos describe the company’s unique business model and role in the Medicines for All initiative. The goal was to attract qualified talent with a passion for this mission.

The Virginia Talent Accelerator team also posted 10 positions on Civica’s behalf on a variety of job boards, launched a Google Ad campaign and placed branded media on industry-specific and niche sites to attract talent to careers at Civica. The campaign reduced the overall anticipated “time to fill” for these roles by 50 percent.


North Carolina pioneered free and customized workforce training for companies new to the state as well as established businesses that may be embracing new technology or adding new jobs. The state has long been a national model for such workforce development programs.

“In the late 1950s, our legislature realized we needed to move from an agrarian-based economy to more of a manufacturing-based economy, so eight industrial centers were set up throughout the state to provide free training to companies and individuals,” said Maureen Little, vice president of economic development for the North Carolina Community College System. “We were the only state doing that. And that was really the precursor to our community college system.”

customized training programs
New employees of area pharmaceutical firms train in aseptic processing techniques under the guidance of BioNetwork instructors at the Capstone Center on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus. (Photo: Economic Development Partnership of NC)

That system now includes diverse instructional offerings at 58 community colleges across North Carolina, the third-largest system in the U.S. The system sponsors North Carolina’s modern-day customized training program, which provides services such as training assessment, coursework design and training delivery.

Eligible companies include manufacturers, technology-intensive operations such as IT and life sciences businesses, regional or national warehousing and distribution centers, customer support centers and national headquarters with operations outside North Carolina.

“In a typical year, our customized training program works with greater than 1,000 companies and we serve more than 36,000 individuals,” Little said. Statewide, the program provides roughly $12 million worth of customized training a year—at no charge to the companies served.

“The strength of our customized training program is the instructional capacity at our 58 community colleges,” Little said. “Our focus is on establishing a partnership between the company and the local community college so that whenever training is a need, the company knows that the college can provide that support.”

When a company is first considering whether to locate or expand in the state, the local community college and the NC Community College System have seats at the recruitment table. “We work with the company on how it plans to advertise positions and recruit and screen candidates. We ask if there is pre-employment training we can support. And then we move into post-employment training,” Little said.

“Post-employment training ranges from helping to support the culture of the company through leadership training and interpersonal skills for team associates, to safety training, all forms of Lean Six Sigma process improvement and technical skills instruction,” Little said. “The local community college comes into play with the technical training, which is connected directly to what the company specifically needs.”

A handful of the hundreds of notable customized training partnerships between local community colleges and major employers have involved GE Aviation plant sites throughout North Carolina; Honda Aircraft in Greensboro; Merck in Durham and Wilson; Thermo Fisher Scientific and Mayne Pharma in Greenville; and Exela Pharma Sciences in Lenoir.

Each of the state’s community colleges has facilities earmarked for workforce development, Little said. Some campuses also oversee and staff industry-specialized training centers equipped with machinery similar to what is being used by local employers.

Community college partnerships contributed to Asheville, NC winning a $650-million Pratt & Whitney advanced-manufacturing plant last year. The planned 1.2-million-square-foot facility is expected to create 800 new jobs through 2027.

Five regional community colleges in Western North Carolina—led by Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech)—came together to offer classes specific to Pratt & Whitney’s needs. In addition, A-B Tech is partnering with Pratt & Whitney to recruit qualified candidates and provide pre- and post-hire training. With Buncombe County support, A-B Tech will also operate a 20,000-square-foot educational facility close to the Pratt & Whitney plant, with space dedicated to training Pratt & Whitney machinists and other workers.

Little also noted that the North Carolina Community College System has been strategic in supporting the workforce needs of the state’s fast-growing biopharma manufacturing industry. “We’ve been very proactive and developed two-year and certificate programs to specifically address that industry sector,” she said. BioNetwork, part of the NC Community College System, offers new worker, incumbent worker and custom training at a network of sites.

North Carolina also provides the ApprenticeshipNC Program, where employers mentor entry-level employees in company-specific skills.

To establish an apprenticeship program, a company works with the NC Community College System on an agreement that specifies the length of the training, the related technical instruction, an outline of the skills to be learned and apprentice wages. Apprentices are trained in the classroom and on the job.

A welding apprentice in North Carolina’s ApprenticeshipNC program participates in a regional trade skills competition held at a union training facility in Concord, NC. (Photo: Economic Development Partnership of NC)

Overall, North Carolina has fostered a variety of apprenticeship models. They range from the nationally recognized, European-style partnership between Central Piedmont Community College and Siemens USA in Charlotte, where successful apprentices earn a well-paying job with the manufacturer of gas and steam turbines, to regional apprenticeship consortiums. Consortiums involve several area manufacturers sharing the costs of paid high school apprenticeships that lead to associate degrees, certifications and a job with a participating company.

North Carolina’s integrated workforce development system, known as NCWorks, provides additional resources to support both employers and job seekers. Its incumbent worker training grant program reimburses companies for costs of upskilling their existing employees.

The grants cover training-related expenses such as instructional costs for courses; classes for certification exams; online training; skills assessments related to training; textbooks and manuals; computer software for training purposes; and instructor travel.

Through NCWorks, local workforce development boards across the state can also deliver on-the-job training to new employees of local companies. Participating companies are reimbursed up to 50 percent of an eligible new employee’s wages paid during the on-the-job training period. For eligible companies with 250 or fewer employees, the reimbursement can be up to 75 percent.


There’s no way around it. We find ourselves in a difficult labor market across the country and the world. Business leaders understand this reality all too well.

Bold and decisive leadership has not only kept Arkansas in the forefront of workforce development achievements nationally for manufacturing, but also positioned the state to come out of the pandemic ahead of the pack.

customized training programs
An employee of Hytrol working at the company’s manufacturing facility in Jonesboro, AR. (Photo: AEDC)

On May 7, 2021, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced effective June 26, 2021, he was ending Arkansas’ participation in the federal unemployment programs that were put in place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is well ahead of the federal expiration date of September 4, 2021.

“The programs were implemented to assist the unemployed during the pandemic when businesses were laying off employees and jobs were scarce,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “As we emerge from COVID-19, retail and service companies, restaurants and industry are attempting to return to pre-pandemic unemployment levels, but employees are as scarce today as jobs were a year ago. Now we need Arkansans back on the job so that we can get our economy back to full speed.”

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Michael Preston echoed the governor’s remarks. “In a time of crisis, these programs served a great purpose that helped thousands of Arkansans get the assistance they needed to stay afloat. Now with more than 45,000 jobs available across the state, we are open for business, and our citizens have the opportunity to get the job they want.”

Arkansas is no stranger to upheavals in the economy, but with a diverse economy and workforce, the Natural State has weathered historic downturns before with amazing resiliency. The latest is no exception, as the state’s economy benefitted from Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s pragmatic approach to dealing with the virus. Arkansas never shut down.

As other states slowly emerge from lockdown, as companies across the country begin to plan within new realities, it has never been more important to understand the forces at work and how your company might be impacted. Business leaders should ask themselves, “Are we in the right place with the right people to prosper in the new economy?”

Workforce development that is meaningful to local industries will be the heart of sustaining long-term recovery in our country. In Arkansas, the economic development team is taking an innovative approach to the challenges that have been identified by local businesses. In a collaborative environment that encourages partnership between business and government, everyone wins. One notable success story is Hytrol, a growing conveyor manufacturer that recently announced it would open its second facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, following many years of finding success on the other side of the state.

“Hytrol has been in Jonesboro, Arkansas since 1962,” Hytrol President David Peacock said. “We began with 28 employees and have grown to more than 1,200 employees in that location. When it came time to expand with an additional production facility, it was an easy decision to stay in Arkansas. The workforce in Arkansas is second to none; the business climate supports our growth; and our values of faith, family, gratitude, empathy, commitment and community align perfectly with Arkansas.”

Enter the Future Fit program, recently instituted in Arkansas to positive reviews, it is introducing new concepts to old growth, as well as new companies, in the state. Future Fit is an industry-designed training program that was created to satisfy industry needs for entry level employees to close the gaps for technical skills, improve communication and safety, reduce the time to get new employees achieving productivity goals, and most importantly perhaps, increase the retention of those entry-level employees. The program is designed to improve selection on the front end as well. It includes nearly 100 hours of hands-on, classroom and virtual education on the critical aspects, including industry mathematics, safety, professional communication, blueprint reading and the fundamentals of manufacturing machinery. And there’s no cost to participating companies. It’s the way Arkansas shares the responsibility of educating and presenting capable, new employees who are ready to learn in the culture of a new opportunity. More information on Arkansas Future Fit, and the extensive apprentice programs offered in the state, can be found at

Arkansas’ diverse economy requires broad thinking and bold action at every level of commerce. Consider the opportunities available in The Natural State. More than half of the state is covered in timber. Agriculture is important, the state produces more rice than any, yet at the same time the top-value exports are aircraft and related parts, as well as missiles and other defense products. The state boasts oil and gas, plentiful water, and it’s been said, if left alone, Arkansas may be the only state that could sustain every need within its borders.

And if you’ve never been to Arkansas, there are many reasons to go. Geographically, the state is as diverse as its economy. With mountains in the Northwest, and the Delta to the Southeast, along with beautiful and plentiful lakes and rivers, recreation is just outside nearly every home in the state. After a hard day’s work, see for yourselves how Arkansans enjoy their time at


Missouri One Start, the state’s workforce recruitment, training and upskilling division, continues to gain in popularity among companies looking to build or maintain their workforce. A well-established program, it has trained more than 815,000 workers and assisted over 7,000 companies to date. In spite of the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, it trained 47,000 employees across 234 companies in 2020.

One Start’s programs are highly flexible, and are designed to work in lock-step with eligible companies to address their unique workforce challenges. Companies within the program can choose to utilize training funds via One Start’s network of community colleges and tech schools, or they can utilize industry or in-house experts, either at their facility or via an industry-recognized training facility. One Start’s program ensures businesses have employee training and upskilling to remain competitive, reduce turnover and excel in the marketplace.

Recruitment services were understandably popular in 2020 and have only become more popular in 2021. Originally developed as an extension of the program’s dynamic online portal to recruit COVID-19 healthcare workers, and the job board for essential businesses that followed, One Start’s white-glove recruitment is now one of the program’s most requested offerings.

Since the spring of 2020, they’ve been providing services similar to an ad agency. One Start develops a custom microsite branded to each company’s unique look, voice and color palette, with a unique URL. It then promotes the job openings with paid social media, marketing to potential employees within a radius of the business’ location. A link to the microsite puts interested workers within one click of the job information and one additional click from applying. For large corporations, with multi-location job listings that require sorting and filtering, this two-click path knocks down barriers that might otherwise frustrate applicants or prevent them from applying. Graphics, copy, media plan and an analytics report are provided free of charge to eligible companies in One Start’s program.

The fact that Missouri takes workforce development seriously can be seen in the expansions of One Start’s partner community colleges and tech schools’ centers of excellence across the state. Ozarks Technical Community College broke ground in November 2020 on their Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Springfield. The college’s 120,000-square-foot Robert W. Plaster Center for Advanced Manufacturing will be dedicated to serving as the regional hub for all advanced manufacturing and technology-related education and training. In Kansas City, Metropolitan Community College is renovating their Advanced Skills Institute to house workforce training programs in computer-integrated machining, industrial technology and construction management, among others. Renovation of the 101,108-square-foot building is underway and completion is expected near the end of 2021. And State Fair Community College broke ground on the Olen Howard Workforce Innovation Center in Sedalia in December 2020. The 38,500-square-foot facility will more than double the pipeline of students pursuing high-demand careers such as robotics and logistics, and provide for leadership/supervisory training and apprenticeships. A $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Missouri Department of Economic Development in a partnership with the city of Sedalia, was part of the Workforce Training Initiative. College officials hope to open the center in spring 2022.

To help unemployed Missourians upskill, the state’s Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development offered free access to 3,800 Coursera courses, giving Missourians a pathway to earn professional certificates from companies like IBM and Google, preparing them for entry-level careers in IT. Signaling the state’s commitment to tech training, it continues to offer complimentary CompTIA training to applicants that meet the program’s requirements.

Rounding out the talent pipeline is Apprenticeship Missouri; ranked #2 in the nation for completed apprenticeships. In September 2020, The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry worked in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development to launch Missouri Apprentice Connect. This partnership provides a free portal to match Missourians with opportunities, as well as matching businesses with the apprenticeship program. Since launch, the Missouri Chamber Foundation was awarded a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to create nearly 5,300 tech industry apprenticeships.


In a recent letter to Business Facilities, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that Louisiana is now establishing the LED FastStart Technology Center (FSTC).

“For over 12 years, LED FastStart has been providing ‘best-in-class’ talent recruitment and workforce training services to secure new and expanding projects in Louisiana,” Gov. Edwards said in the letter. “During this period, LED FastStart operations have been both highly successful and increasingly complex. What is now required is a state-of­ the-art facility focused on designing and delivering these advanced training services.”

The new LED FastStart Technology Center will feature fully developed Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality production suites. Pictured above LED FastStart virtual reality training program for Exxon-Mobil. (Photo:

The FSTC as planned will become a training facility with fully developed Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) production suites, high-tech training material production capacity, client meeting and demonstration areas, and conference rooms.

The new facility, along with the dedicated staff at LED FastStart, will soon be equipped to provide client companies with customized training programs in advanced manufacturing and a host of other skill sets and sectors, as never before.

“LED FastStart, the top-ranked workforce training program in BF’s annual State Rankings Report for the past 11 years, consistently delivers exceptional results for client companies,” Edwards said. “Its investments in higher education shape and create the talent pipeline industry and communities need to thrive. LED FastStart’s forward-looking approach to workforce development and talent attraction ensure it continues to set the standard to beat.”

Gov. Edwards noted that, to synchronize training with employer demand, Louisiana has long-focused on higher education partnerships.

“Our partnerships are boosting the number of graduates in advanced manufacturing, computer science and other growth sectors,” Edwards said.” During the past decade, with LED FastStart playing an integral role, those partnerships have produced more than 20,000 new jobs in STEM fields.”

Edwards referenced a recent McKinsey Global Survey which illuminated the scope of the workforce skills gap, with most respondents experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expecting them soon. “Few respondents indicated they had a solution to this challenge,” Edwards said. “I believe LED FastStart is that solution, and will power successful companies in Louisiana in the challenging days that lie ahead.”

Edwards noted that Louisiana has installed advanced Haas 5-axis machining centers at every community and technical college in the state, the first state in the nation to do so.

“These Universal Machining Centers enable the automated production of parts on five vertical, horizontal and rotational axes at one time. CNC, or computer numerical control, automation enables a trained operator to become a critical part of an advanced manufacturing workforce,” Gov. Edwards said. “For Louisiana to continue as a global leader in manufacturing, we must make these investments in the highest-quality manufacturing equipment on our campuses to ensure our future workforce is trained to be best-in-class.”

Edwards also touted LED FastStart’s recently launched next-generation online recruiting platform. “This portal creates a unique online experience for employers and identifies job seekers using artificial intelligence tools,” he said.

The new LED FastStart Recruiting site includes customized landing pages, with vivid content about each company, and a hiring process that is searchable by job position, category, company or region within Louisiana.

“The establishment of the LED FastStart Technology Center, with fully developed Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality production suites, ensures that Louisiana’s premier workforce development program will stay ahead of the curve for years to come,” BF Editor in Chief Jack Rogers said.

In his letter to BF, Gov. Edwards underlined LED FastStart’s commitment to equity-driven inclusion and a better quality of life, commitments that are central to long-term recommendations generated by the Resilient Louisiana Commission, which was headed by LED Secretary Don Pierson.

The Resilient Louisiana Commission’s report, issued in December, emphasizes that equity, inclusion and quality of life will lead to a stronger, more resilient Louisiana. “I am proud of an equity-driven growth model adopted by LED FastStart that will bring about improved outcomes. Equity is not only a matter of social justice; it is an economic necessity. Broader opportunity will spur economic growth and ensure that all people—especially lower-income residents, rural residents, people of color and other vulnerable groups—have opportunities to create and benefit from economic growth,” Edwards declared.

The governor added, “Through LED FastStart, partnerships have been established with historically black colleges and universities across our state. LED’s investments are diversifying both the advanced manufacturing workforce and the technology workforce while allowing the placement of minorities, women and military veterans in highly skilled roles.”

“The Resilient Louisiana Commission’s goal of an equity-driven recovery that embraces inclusion and seeks to improve the quality of life for all is a template that is worth emulating by every state,” Rogers said, in a letter to Gov. Edwards. “Your national leadership on this—and other critical issues, including climate change—is impressive and inspirational.”


Manufacturers are coming to Pflugerville and the community has taken notice.

For example, in 2020, Essentium, an additive manufacturer, established a Manufacturing Process Center in Pflugerville in just 10 days as part of their COVID-19 response. They are one of several additive manufacturers in the city.

“Through this project, we saw validation of the readiness of additive. Manufacturers can trust this technology and use it to de-risk supply chains,” said Kendra Pulliam, VP of Marketing for Essentium.

Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy student dusting off the nickel-metal powder that is used to create a functional component. (Photo: PCDC)

Essentium’s work during COVID-19 highlighted the readiness of their technology, and also how connected Pflugerville’s manufacturing community is. They worked in collaboration with local and regional companies to produce PPE and solve challenges related to the pandemic. These relationships are ongoing and have resulted in strategic connections that are beneficial for knowledge sharing and company growth.

“Pflugerville is a thriving community that has strategically identified itself as a city for additive manufacturing. Pflugerville has the right combination of a forward-thinking local government and a willing partner with the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation providing resources and support,” said Pulliam.

The Pflugerville Community Development Corporation (PCDC) is the organization charged with promoting the economic development of the city of Pflugerville and they have been actively looking for ways to support this emerging industry. The industry’s most pressing need has been to upskill the local workforce and provide them with training specific to additive equipment and processes.

“Pflugerville is one of the fastest growing communities in the United States, with additional growth happening around us. This translates to our manufacturing community as well. From homegrown companies like SISU, to global powerhouses like Tesla, manufacturers are growing in and around Pflugerville. Our job is to ensure that they have the talent necessary to meet the demand,” said Amy Madison, CEcD, EDFP, Executive Director of PCDC.

To solve this challenge, PCDC has partnered with Workforce Solutions Capital Area (WFSCA) and Austin Community College to create a training program specific to the needs of additive and other advanced manufacturers. PCDC’s Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy was launched in 2021 to support the high demand for skilled manufacturing workers in the community. The Academy provides training on new manufacturing equipment, creating a skilled entry-level workforce for manufacturers in a fast-growth industry sector that has demonstrated its resiliency during the pandemic.

The Academy includes two internationally recognized 3D printer manufacturers, a nationally recognized plastics injection molding company and a company who manufactures parts solely with 3D printing machines made locally.

“WFSCA’s programs with PCDC are a true partnership and the first of its kind serving Pflugerville residents. PCDC has provided the match funding necessary for WFSCA to utilize workforce training grants, ensuring that we could create the Academy and roll it out quickly,” said Tamara Atkinson, Chief Executive Officer of Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

“We realized that there was a sense of urgency to ensuring that our existing additive manufacturers, and the companies who will be joining them, have a steady stream of entry level talent to join their organizations. What’s unique about the Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy is the hyper local approach we took to workforce training and development,” said Madison.

Atkinson elaborated, “The High Demand Jobs Training grant and manufacturing program is a successful example of PCDC and employers coming together to identify a training need, then assisting the community college in developing the curriculum to ensure students are ready to begin work upon completion.”

She continued, “Manufacturing employers are taking part, opening their doors and offering parts of the training on-site. This gives students the real world experience they need to put learning into action. PCDC brought partners together to ensure local businesses can fill their critical hiring needs while meeting the training and employment needs of local residents.”

Amy Madison recognizes that the Academy provides strong opportunities for Pflugerville residents who aren’t seeking a college degree. “The pandemic highlighted some of the challenges facing less educated workers in our community. We realized that certain types of training would give all our residents the opportunity to build careers and provide better lives for their families,” she said. “Our goal is to provide this training to 120 residents in 2021 and we are well on our way to achieving that.”

To promote the longevity of the Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy, PCDC has also secured funding for a teacher externship program where teachers will receive the training necessary to facilitate future workforce training. “Additive manufacturing is an emerging and rapidly expanding field. We are taking steps today to prepare the current workforce while simultaneously looking to the future. By preparing teachers, we are creating an ecosystem of workforce development that positions Pflugerville as a national hub for additive manufacturing,” said Madison.


The UpSkill901 Talent Initiative in Memphis was designed to galvanize the local workforce ecosystem, upskilling 10,000 Memphis and Shelby County residents over a specified timeframe. It recognizes local workforce practitioners as subject matter experts (SMEs) in areas of education, youth services, adult employment, re-entry and faith, creating five Pillars (or working groups) to represent each area.

Each Pillar is led by Champions selected by peer organizations. Pillars have been charged with the mission of creating and implementing a comprehensive action plan to collectively upskill the community.

Their goal is to collectively create strategies and clear pathways to upskill their targeted populations through training/education, mobilization to embrace new skills, technology and innovation in the workplace, career counseling, internships, apprenticeships, on-the-job training and job placements. They are also charged with identifying gaps, duplication of efforts and barriers, and to create recommendations for solutions. Pillar Champions and individual Pillar groups have met consistently since October 2019.

Currently, there are more than 200 representatives from participating organizations. Results include creating an asset map for the 180 organizations that provide workforce resources, with employers reporting over 4,000 new hires as a result of the collaborative.


All roads lead to Irving-Las Colinas. Centrally located in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and known as “Headquarters of Headquarters” with more Fortune 1000 global headquarters per capita than any other city in Texas, Irving-Las Colinas offers employers the opportunity to provide their teams at-work flexibility that few cities in the region can—the time-honoring lifestyle known as the “10-Minute Life.”

The phrase describes an idyllic lifestyle where all the necessities and amenities of life are literally within a 10-minute transit timespan. One can travel to the office or the store, dine at eclectic and diverse restaurants, reach miles of hiking and biking trails, pick up students from school, go to a live concert or get to two major airports. Access to this way of life helps companies in Irving-Las Colinas move beyond the standard benefits and offer employees an array of work/life balance amenities all within easy reach.

Irving-Las Colinas leaders envisioned the “10-Minute Life” by conveniently developing the city’s jobs, housing and amenities around transportation centers that include the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail system. DART’s Orange Line has six stations in Irving-Las Colinas, including the most recent opening in April at Hidden Ridge, a $1 billion, 5G transit-oriented, mixed-use development.

“The people who live, work and raise families in Irving-Las Colinas are our top asset,” said Beth A. Bowman, president and CEO of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce and the Irving Economic Development Partnership. “Irving-Las Colinas’ thriving business-friendly environment offers quality amenities that appeal to today’s workforce while also collaborating with regional partners to create a continuous pipeline of talent that benefit companies considering our community.”

Recognized as the 14th most diverse city in the U.S., Irving-Las Colinas also offers corporate leaders unique access to a highly educated and diverse workforce. With eight universities, colleges and trade schools, and 106 additional post-secondary schools located within a 25-mile radius, nearly 40 percent of residents over 25 have earned a two-year college degree, and 35 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree.

To further ensure a highly qualified talent pool, the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber joined with 10 other chambers, universities and organizations in the region to launch Bridging the Talent Gap. The initiative helps employers, educators and other community stakeholders understand and meet the challenges of ensuring a skilled and educated workforce. They collect hiring, training and educational attainment data from various employers to catalog gaps and opportunities, both existing and projected.

Equally important, Irving-Las Colinas provides an attractive incentive for workers searching for the best continued learning and job growth opportunities. Assisting the 8,500+ businesses in the city, the Irving-Las Colinas Chamber’s Education Foundation works with higher education institutions, Workforce Solutions for Greater Dallas and businesses like Google to develop workforce training certifications specific to local industries and market needs.

These advantages are only some of the reasons why leading companies from around the globe continue to make Irving-Las Colinas home.

In 2020, Microsoft expanded its Irving-Las Colinas presence, transforming its 32-acre campus and creating its second-largest location outside of its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. And, in 2019, McKesson Corp., the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributor, moved its Fortune 8 headquarters from San Francisco to Las Colinas, attributing the relocation in part to the region’s exceptional talent and the unrivaled work environment available to employees.

Earlier this year, CHRISTUS Health, an international Catholic faith-based health system with more than 600 centers, announced that it would relocate and expand its headquarters within Irving with the construction of a new 400,000+-square-foot building. The new location will be within walking distance of more than 20 restaurants, several hotels, the city’s newest entertainment venue, the Toyota Music Factory, and multiple lifestyle housing options.

With a focus on growing and nurturing its existing talent, recruiting global expertise and providing quality amenities with an unparalleled, convenient location, Irving-Las Colinas’ vibrant community is an ideal destination not only for Fortune-level corporations, middle-market and small businesses but also innovators and entrepreneurs.

Read more about workforce development and corporate expansion here.