Mesa Community College Partners with Local Companies to Provide Needed Training

Many companies today are faced with the challenge of finding people who have the skills needed to fill vacant positions. They are also finding it difficult to get the training needed to help prepare their employees for the job.

Two local companies, both facing similar circumstances, approached the Mesa Community College Center for Workforce and Community Partnerships and Manufacturing Institute for help.

James McKaughan, Production and Operations Manager at YESCO headquarters in Phoenix, AZ contacted the Center for Workforce and Community Partnerships about developing an apprenticeship program similar to that being done at their office in Las Vegas, NV. James wanted a training curriculum that would provide employees the opportunity to develop skills most critical for their positions; OSHA training, basic math, math level 2, blueprint reading, welding 1 and 2, electronics 1 and 2, team building and project management.

Around the same time, Sound Packaging, Arizona’s largest independent corrugated manufacturer located in Chandler, contacted MCC.  Andy Jones, Operations Manager expressed the company’s need for training in PLC programming, automation, electrical troubleshooting, welding and many of the same core classes YESCO was seeking.

Leah Palmer, Director of MCC’s Center for Workforce and Community Partnerships along with Bob Bonura, Manufacturing Faculty member and Co-chair of the MCC Applied Science and Technology Department conducted numerous meetings with James and Andy to determine their specific training needs. Maricopa Workforce Connections also joined as a partner, providing job training funds.

Curriculum was developed and customized to meet both companies’ needs. Different levels were put in place with 3 certifications available (Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3). These are each accredited in the state and nationally, adding to the employability of participants. At the completion of each level, The Center for Workforce and Community Partnerships will issue the certificates. Credits from the classes taken can be applied toward an Associate’s Degree if participants choose to pursue one.      

 “Our job is to bring the Community College to industry, utilizing all of the resources we have to help them be successful,” explained Leah Palmer.

Bob Bonura added, “It is vital to develop curriculum that meets the needs of each company. We are able to provide flexibility and bring all components together to provide manufacturing training with a holistic approach.”

The apprenticeship training began in October 2012 at the YESCO site with 14 YESCO and 8 Sound Packaging employees enrolled.

YESCO and Sound Packaging developed incentive programs for the employees who elected to participate. Of the YESCO participants, 95% received full funding from Workforce Connections. YESCO agreed to cover half of the tuition costs for the other employees enrolled. The company pays the full tuition in advance for the semester and employees then reimburse their share. At the completion of the semester, employees are compensated on a percentage basis depending on their overall performance of the following criteria: successful completion of coursework; attitude and attendance while at work and in class; and overall job performance.

Sound Packing is paying the full tuition for their participating employees. As they achieve the set certification levels, a performance review will be conducted and monetary benefits may be awarded if all criteria are met.

All participants successfully passed the first semester of the program and began their second semester in January 2013. The cohort will complete level 1 certification in May and will advance to level 2.

Both James McKaughan and Andy Jones said the experience has been positive for their employees. They both agreed the transition at the start of classes was rough. Each participant works a full eight hour shift and then attends classes for three hours, two days each week. However, after the first month interest in the classes increased and both managers have seen a noticeable difference in the moral of their employees.

Jon Cheethan has been with Sound Packaging for five years and was recently promoted to supervisor. He stated, “It’s been 35 years since I was in school last. I am enjoying it. It is exciting and very interesting. I am relearning math and blueprint reading.”

John Gonzales, currently an Electrical Assembly Supervisor at YESCO explained the program is benefitting him as an employee. He has been with the company for seven years. “I wish I was this excited about college when I graduated High school.”

YESCO and Sound Packaging, in partnership with MCC and Maricopa Workforce Connections, developed an effective way to invest in and help their employees grow.

Troy Gale, Co-Owner and CFO for Sound Packaging explains, “We are investing in our employees to get the education and training that is important for our company internally and externally for our customers.”

 “An effective workforce requires a strong foundation and the support from the community. We are very pleased to be part of the foundation of our community’s future. The relationships with employers, educators and organizational leaders sparked by the YESCO, Mesa Community College and Maricopa Workforce Connection collaboration will grow and support the local economy for years to come, ” commented Tabatha Smith Muhns with Maricopa Workforce Connections.

About Mesa Community College

Mesa Community College provides outstanding transfer and career and technical programs, workforce development, and life-long learning opportunities to residents of the East Valley area of Phoenix, Arizona. MCC excels in teaching, learning and empowering more than 40,000 students who attend annually to succeed in a local and global community.  Mesa Community College is one of ten colleges that comprise the Maricopa County Community College District.

MCC’s Manufacturing Institute is designed to meet the growing and changing needs of the manufacturing business sector. An interdisciplinary approach allows for flexibility to meet the needs of industry. Since the development of the Manufacturing Institute in 2011, enrollment in courses offered through the Manufacturing Institute has dramatically increased due to this approach.

The Center for Workforce and Community Partnerships can provide innovative, customized solutions to specific workforce needs as well as help companies identify and pursue new economic opportunities.

Please direct media inquiries to Angela Askey at or Sally Mesarosh at  or the Office of Institutional Advancement at 480-461-7445.  IA website:


Source Details

Publication Date: 
Monday, March 4, 2013