Business Spotlight: Tri Tool, Inc. works on a Pipeline of People to Fuel Manufacturing in the Sacramento Area

by Michelle Stephens, Program Manager, CALED
A qualified and well-trained workforce is top of the list for California businesses. As the states local workforce investment boards and workforce development groups tackle these challenges, some businesses have stepped up to the plate as well. One such company is Tri Tool, Inc.   

Tri Tool is a designer and manufacturer of precision portable machine tools headquartered in Rancho Cordova, outside of Sacramento. For over 40 years, Tri Tool has manufactured quality portable tube and pipe cutting and beveling equipment. Their products are used in the construction and maintenance of oil and gas lines, power plants, refineries, ships and aircraft, communication lines and in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, and the production of microchips. 
After seeing their experienced workforce getting closer to retirement, Tri Tool did not know where the next generation was coming from. Rather than wait for an emergency, they created a plan to form their own “Pipeline of People.” This pipeline stemmed from the company’s strategic planning goals and focused on hiring and retaining the right people, which is evolving into a regional workforce-training program. 
Frank Wernette, of Tri Tool noted that, “There has been a shift away from welding and machining in the education system with the reduction of shop classes of up to 30 percent… but there are people that want a full career in machining and welding, doing what they love to do.”
Tri Tool has been providing on the job training since the company was formed but the Pipeline of People plan began in 2012 and includes a wide variety of training opportunities. The company teaches some employees how to use the machining tools they create but they also have programs that allow employees to improve their skill sets and leadership skills. 
These include Computer Aided Drafting, Computer Aided Manufacturing, engineering classes, and management and leadership courses. These classes engage their employees and teach new skills that will impact their ability to rise to the next level professionally. Tri Tool also benefits because they see this leading to new and improved tools and processes at the company. 
So far the Pipeline of People has been focused on Tri Tool’s existing employees but they
have goals to provide machining and welding training for the Sacramento Region as well as internship opportunities and mentoring for community college students and potentially high school students. This has spurred Tri Tool to partner with local organizations working on improving the technical trades in the region. Key partners so far have included the California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA), the Sacramento Employment & Training Agency (SETA), and local Community Colleges. 
It was only in 2014, that the company found out about available Employment Training Panel funding that is available. They are now working with CMTA and SETA to take advantage of this funding. This is a great opportunity since all previous work has been funding solely by Tri Tool. Robert Sanger with CMTA added that because of these ETP funds, “Now Tri Tool is working toward key training goals and the employees are enhancing their toolkit of skills.”
A particularly fruitful partnership has been with American River College (ARC). ARC has a welding program that is an accredited welding testing site. The relationship started slowly with campus visits to talk to students about what companies look for in future employees, attending job fairs, and letting students know that jobs are available. It is currently ramping up though with Tri Tool partnering with ARC to apply for a grant to further develop the program, all with the overarching goal of promoting the technical trades and letting the future workforce know about these jobs.
“In general, we as a company enjoy trying to build the workforce of tomorrow in order to
be self-sustaining and to have a workforce tomorrow,” said Joe Wernette, Vice President of Professional Development for Tri Tool. “The technical trades are vital to the United
States as far as being an exporter of quality manufactured and technological goods and that all starts with the employees. They need the skillset and knowledge to build the nation. We need the people to design, build, and put it all together.” 
In addition to strengthening the nation, this type of training directly benefits Tri Tool. They have low turnover with their employees with many having been with the company for over ten and twenty years, and even one employee who has been at Tri Tool for 40 years. This investment in employees is one reason the company has been successful and is a good partner to the Sacramento region.

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