Dave Giovannini is the general manager of MFG South Dakota, a 32,500 square foot composite manufacturing facility with over 400 employees in Aberdeen. MFG South Dakota produces wind blades for large companies like General Electric (GE) Wind. Giovannini has a long career working with rotating equipment, including compressors and turbines. Over a year ago, Giovannini worked with the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) to offer the new Composite Certified Technician Vacuum Infusion Processing (CCT VIP) to MFG employees. At his facility, over 37 employees are CCT-certified and 5 employees are CCT Instructors.

In a growing industry, how do you stay competitive?

It’s critical that our employees can adapt to the needs in the marketplace quickly. Our company may increase the size of the wind blades we produce to increase the energy production of our product. To make that transition easier in the plant, you need employees to understand composite materials not just how to operate his or her part of the process. Employees can get by and do a great job with basic working knowledge, but introducing a brand new product will take much longer to introduce. Without education in the facility, the process is actually more costly and the risks are higher from a quality standpoint. We also like that the program is nationally recognized for employees that are interested in following a career in composite manufacturing.

How do you use educational training at your facility?

We offer our training to employees inside the facility and employees that are interested in working with MFG. Most of the effort has been in upgrading in-house talent. The hope is that we can use CCT programs to get new folks to come to MFG within the wind blade manufacturing facility in South Dakota and the wind blade maintenance arm in Texas. We’ve had a few people join our team from the training, but what we’ve done in-house is require senior technicians, team leaders and our quality techs to take the program. Out of 400 employees at the facility in South Dakota, 37 people are CCT certified and 5 are CCT Instructors level. We still have a few people that need to be certified. We’re also involved in a composite technician training program with New Tec, Inc. in Aberdeen, S.D., and we’re working with Mitchell Technical Institute in Mitchell, S.D. to add composites to its wind energy curriculum.

What ways work best to train employees?

We offer two ways for our employees to take the CCT course. The first is to take hands-on classes after work at New Tec, Inc. located down the street. MFG donates the equipment for employees and students to get familiar with the equipment and materials as well as study the information in the books. MFG works with the state of South Dakota as is eligible for educational grants to help offset the course price.

Internally, we generally run the classes in the same fashion. We’ll have class time and hands-on after work. When we started working with New Tec, a consultant named Laura Miller helped us to use the core of the CCT program and add more so that the curriculum is in line with what we do. In order to do that, most of the additional curriculum requires more hands on involvement. We implemented that as part of it.

How has education changed your work force?

The employees really take home the importance of consumables in a vacuum process and watching their flow fronts. It’s been a real win for us on that side.

A few years ago MFG started emphasizing the importance of our employees through programs like CCT. Since we started doing this, extra emphasis on education, etc., we’ve seen a large increase in our production numbers in the plant. We’re getting better products at a higher production rate.

What tips would you give to companies wanting to implement educational training?

My biggest tip for companies interested in education and in supporting CCT is to include some hands-on time as part of the curriculum. It’s an integral part of the learning process for our employees. I’ve found that it’s important to understand the concepts in the book by performing the process, such as using the vacuum system to infuse a small part, the science sinks in. Also, when we hold classes at our facility we pay workers for their time. It makes the employees happy and they’re more willing to learn about the process.