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WCM Academy grows during pandemic

World Class Manufacturing Academy passed 20,000-participant mark in 2020

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Despite a pandemic halting progress for many industries last year, the World Class Manufacturing Academy (WCMA) continued to grow and hit a milestone last year.

According to WCMA Co-lead Lori Hoback, a host of Stellantis employees participate in the program, which aims to strengthen local workers through continued growth. Last year, the program crossed the 20,000-participant mark, something Hoback said was possible due to the implementation of a virtual training program, which WCMA staff created themselves.

More than 55,000 virtual training activities have been completed since March 25. Due to the shutdown earlier that month, Hoback said she and her team had only a couple of weeks to develop that virtual program.

“Some of our training we converted from an in-person curriculum experience to a virtual, and other training we had to really develop on the fly,” Hoback said.

One of the programs she was particularly proud of was called “Let’s Lead” and consisted of a series of three leadership courses that were focused on helping prepare company leaders to lead in times of uncertainty. The courses were geared toward not only those in upper management but also those at the team leader level.

“We all went through something that none of us had ever experienced, so I think the ‘Let’s Lead’ program that we developed virtually was very important for us this year,” she said.

On the flip side, WCMA staff had to develop technical training that centered on answering what so many others struggled to answer during COVID-19: how to come back to work. Entire training programs, Hoback said, were created that focused on developing safety protocols, including how to keep employees safe on the job and how to handle leave for sick employees.

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It was difficult, Hoback said, but worthwhile. The programs that were developed right here in Kokomo out of WCMA were utilized at plants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to guide them to safely reopening.

Despite WCMA’s success last year, Hoback is looking to the future. Recently, a campaign called “Moving WCM Forward” has launched which is aimed at pushing employees even further by reexamining metrics that since have been rendered obsolete — but for good reasons.

“We’ve made great strides since 2009 when we implemented WCM. When we’re starting to become the benchmark in some of our metrics, it’s time to revamp the criteria and revamp the targets to where we’re not just trying to catch up to the leaders now,” Hoback said. “We are the leaders in some areas. So this ‘Moving WCM Forward’ is really helping us switch over to that, ‘Hey, we’re the best, and how do we remain the best? And how do get some separation between our competitors?’”

Another milestone was hit last year, too, as a cohort of 25 employees received their masters of business administration degrees from IU Kokomo. The group consisted of hourly workers, engineers, clerical positions, and management.

That cohort, Hoback said, exemplifies the kind of workforce the academy helps to grow.

“I think that that right there just tells you the kind of workforce that we have,” Hoback said. “They’re very self-motivated and driven to develop themselves to participate and engage in development that we coordinate. So this job for me is really fun because we’re working not only with very engaged plant managers and leadership but also employees who appreciate development and go after it. So it’s fun for us.”