Saddleback College’s Customized Training Helps Businesses Grow and Employees Thrive Feature Story

September 19, 2023
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When quality technician Anthony Salinas wanted to improve his professional skills, he didn’t need to leave work to attend training. Instead, training came to work. Even better, it was training designed specifically for his employer, Campbell Engineering, by the Saddleback College Economic and Workforce Development Initiative.

The Saddleback initiative responds directly to a company’s workforce needs by developing no- to low-cost customized training that can be offered on-site or at a convenient location.

“Saddleback College’s training program course, Frontline Leadership, has not only taught me how to be efficient at my job but also effective,” said Salinas, who completed the 10-week course earlier this year. “The instructor went out of her way to ensure that what we learned was applicable to our company through interactive exercises and real-life scenarios. What I really liked most about this course was that I could apply what I learned to my personal life and other future work experiences.”

Retaining Sharp Employees

Training of this type is a win-win because of the way it helps organizations retain talent by providing opportunities for employees to gain new or refreshed skills that specifically apply to their jobs. Better yet, Saddleback makes it convenient to provide training without the steep prices of a private consulting firm.

We customize it specifically to meet the client’s needs. We deliver the training exactly to meet that skill gap,” said Israel Dominguez, director of economic and workforce development at Saddleback College. He started the initiative when he arrived on campus eight years ago. “We can develop training for a client even if we never developed it before. We are very unique and creative.”

At any given time, Saddleback is working with about a dozen organizations, from small businesses to large companies like Amazon, and governmental agencies such as the California Employer Training Panel. Over the last three years, approximately 3,000 Amazon employees have completed the Lean Six Sigma training.

“The facilitation of Lean Six Sigma courses through Saddleback College has been a massive win for the growing leaders in Amazon fulfillment centers across California,” said David Koneck, senior operations manager at Amazon Fulfillment.

Saddleback provides customized training in all of Orange County’s primary industry sectors, including advanced manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and logistics, healthcare, information technology, biotech, and retail, hospitality, and tourism. The college’s understanding of the region’s economic needs is attractive to companies.

“We did use another source about five years back for one session but did not truly get the value out of that as much as we are with Saddleback,” said Pamela Nola, chief financial officer and human resources administrator for Campbell Engineering.

Nola said her company was impressed with the breadth of customized courses Saddleback could offer on such topics as manufacturing, OSHA safety, computer software, basic skills, project management, and leadership training, to name a few.

“For this reason, we chose to go with Saddleback and the fact that they are right here as our local college,” Nola said. “Being close is another advantage because it encourages employees to take advantage of our reimbursement program to take courses on their own.”

To date, 18 of Campbell Engineering’s 32 employees have completed the Leadership Skills course and 14 employees are currently enrolled in a Geometrical Dimensioning and Tolerances training course.

Fulfilling Regional Workforce Needs

Programs like these not only serve regional industry but also support regional professionals who are looking to advance in their current careers or secure a new one. For example, because of the dire need for licensed bus drivers the Orange County Transit Authority approached Saddleback to help develop a training academy to prepare individuals to pass the commercial driving exam. As part of the course, students who complete the training are guaranteed an interview with the OCTA. This arrangement not only serves OCTA’s workforce needs but also supports regional professionals who are looking for a secure career.

Initially funded by an Orange County Foundation Grant, Saddleback hopes to offer the training as a free, noncredit course going forward.

To fill another skills gap, Saddleback created a customized phlebotomy training course for Fountain Valley Regional Hospital. Now several hospitals are requesting similar training.

“Employers can never find enough skilled workers. We can help them build a talent pipeline,” Dominguez said.

Expanding Success

With widespread support from district and college administrations, Saddleback has begun reaching out to other Orange County colleges about expanding the program.

“There’s a lot of interest and discussion about how to expand it and build it further, which is exciting for us,” Dominguez said. “But what I love most is hearing about the businesses and employees that have benefited from our programs.”

After taking the Frontline Leadership course, Campbell Engineering employee Sergio Rascon said, “This course deepened my understanding in leadership, especially dealing with employees in difficult situations. It has definitely boosted my efficiency and the quality of my work.”

That, of course, is the essence of economic and workforce development, Dominguez explained.

“If we help develop the workforce with customized training, and it increases productivity, efficiency and profitability for the company, the employees stay employed and usually have wage gains, and that all turns into economic development. Few things in life are a win-win but this is definitely one of them.”