Panasonic, TMCC partnering on training center

Students go through manufacturing training at Truckee Meadows Community College.

Students go through manufacturing training at Truckee Meadows Community College. Courtesy Truckee Meadows Community College

Panasonic Energy North America’s new divisional campus on East Plumb Lane in Reno will include a 10,000-square-foot training center for entry-level maintenance technicians and advanced-skill operators.
The nearly 95,000-square-foot building, being renovated by Group West Construction, will be used for R&D and other support functions for Tesla’s Gigafactory at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. The Governor's Office of Economic Development in mid-June approved a $1.6 million grant for the new TMCC training center, which will basically function as an easy access point for the community college’s Panasonic Preferred Pathway program.
“The location is excellent because it’s so centralized,” said Karin Hilgersom, TMCC president. “The goal is to help them recruit workers and provide just-in-time training so they can have a good, steady pipeline of talent.
“Workforce development is really about partnerships in order to make Northern Nevada competitive for business,” she said. “It’s a great partnership for TMCC and Panasonic.”
TMCC’s 200-hour self-paced P3 program includes instruction in manufacturing concepts such as materials handling, quality systems, precision measurements, process management, documentation, and electrical circuits, and culminates in a range of skill-based certificates.
However, students who complete the program also can continue their education, Hilgersom noted.
“The program is self-paced and structured in modules so students can keep building their skills,” she said. “The end goal is flexible – students can earn a certificate, an AAS degree, or even a four-year degree in advanced manufacturing.”
Stacey Bostwick, director of workforce development at GOED, said the new joint-partnership training facility provides another crucial access point for workers to boost their manufacturing skills.
“Having more access points is really important to increase the pipeline of talent and skilled training,” Bostwick said. “We were trying to sort out whether it would be better to have additional sites near the employer at TRIC, but ultimately, it made more sense to build up a program that’s closer to the community where folks are coming from for these jobs.
“Panasonic recognized that it would be much easier for them to acquire a site and work in partnership,” she added. “They could have done this on their own, but there’s value in working together – Panasonic has the expertise in the industry and they know what skills they need and how to advance people in their career pathways. That’s what they do. TMCC brings the training know-how. They have a plug-and-play curriculum, they know how to bring people in, develop their skills, and get them out the door and into jobs. This really is the best of both worlds.”
Although the training center will be owned by Panasonic, it will be equipped by TMCC and staffed with college instructors. The program reduces risk for students, Bostwick said, because they likely have jobs lined up upon completion or they are already working while they study, which differs from the historic model of going to college for two or four years and graduating without any real prospects.
“This idea that you train for X amount of months or years doesn’t work for people,” Bostwick said. “They need to work.
“We are making work; work for people and employers. It works because you have an increased talent pipeline, and it affords people the opportunity to not have to make a risky choice when investing in themselves – this program takes away that risk.”
Panasonic has an immediate need for 400 jobs that can pay as much as $32 an hour, the company noted in a press release. TMCC’s Hilgersom said those wages are a huge draw for students who enroll in the college’s manufacturing programs.
“Students really want a good job,” she said. “They are interested in that $32 an hour job. The job has more value than the piece of paper (certificate or AAS degree), and we are that middle step to develop the skill set that makes for an excellent workforce.”
GOED’s Bostwick praised Panasonic’s efforts for creating a dedicated advanced manufacturing center that can help bolster its workforce.
“Nevada’s employers help themselves,” Bostwick said. “This is a very difficult space for employers, and this is a model for other employers to explore more partnerships and talk with the community colleges if that is part of their skilled workforce needs.
“It opens the door to encourage other employers to have these kinds of conversations and tap into available resources,” she added.
The new advanced manufacturing training center was funded through GOED’s Workforce Innovations for the New Nevada Fund, which addresses workforce development needs across the state. The Nevada System of Higher Education, Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovations, Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and Nevada Department of Education also worked in tandem to coordinate its creation.


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