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"When unemployment is way down, school numbers come down. When they’re hiring Sam off the street, why should I get a two-year degree? Other [companies] are saying, I’m so desperate. Can you breathe? Can you walk in?" ~ Bob Bender, Lead Instructor at Riveland Community College in Albert Lea

of opportunity in Owatonna?” And leadership roles are as hard to fill as entry-level and technical positions.

operate some of the key machines as well as measure and handle glass.

“The baby boomers are starting to retire,” Wendorff said. “We’re going to have lots of retirements in the next decade. We’re going to have lots of opportunity to move up into those key positions.”

And Osman, who expects to complete a business management degree — thanks in part to tuition reimbursement and flexible scheduling from Viracon — next summer, said the company has given him a great foundation for his future hope to own his own business.

That means lots of opportunity for workers like Martinez, who said his goal, once he’s mastered his current position, is to move up the line to an eventual supervisory role. In the coming weeks, he’ll start training to

“It’s helped me stay out of debt and school loans. Not only is Viracon helping pay for my tuition, but I’m also making some money on the side,” he said. “I still have my full-time job on the side, and I’m graduating,

and I think it’s worked out great for me. I couldn’t think of a better option, honestly, with school and full-time [work] at the same time.” So as companies like Viracon explore new ways to find, hire and train workers, there’s no shortage of opportunity for workers that can take advantage. “I’d like to see people with the desire and capability to advance,” Copeland said. “We have so many opportunities here that people really can move up, but they have to want to and have the ability to.” 

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Forge October 2017  
Forge October 2017