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A Partnership Three Years in the Making: Creating our HCCA Industrial Maintenance Program in Perry, Ga.

By: Craig Hoffman
Engineering Director, Frito-Lay's Perry, GA Manufacturing Facility

May 23, 2018

Being director of engineering for Frito-Lay’s largest manufacturing facility is an exciting role. Our site is a learning laboratory – a place where we are constantly testing new equipment and ways of working, and figuring out how to scale new programs for adoption across the organization. I’m always learning new things, which I find so rewarding.

It’s a job I’ve worked my whole life to achieve. I was the kid who knew from the start what I wanted to do, and I seized every opportunity to make my dreams a reality. I studied engineering in school, and eventually made my way into manufacturing. When I feel passionately about something, I find a way to make it happen.

Case in point, the Industrial Maintenance Program we developed in partnership with the Houston County Career Academy (HCCA) and Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC).

As the Perry, Ga. facility has continued to expand over the years, we’ve uncovered a need for more highly skilled workers to manage the technical aspects of our operations. Believe it or not, this type of talent is hard to find – not only in Central Georgia, but around the country.

While we have had a strong apprenticeship program in place for many years, we haven’t had a feeder program that provides students an opportunity to learn industrial maintenance skills while still in high school.

Though this kind of program didn’t exist, it still had potential to happen. I knew I needed to make a call to the HCCA to see if we could partner together.

Here are three things I learned from picking up the phone.

1. Be prepared… for the answer to be yes.
I’ll admit I was nervous making that first call. I talked about how the program could provide kids an opportunity to interview for rewarding jobs, how they could learn new skills and support the economy right here in Houston County. I was prepared for rejection, but knew I had to try. To my delight, the HCCA not only took my call, they were on board and as excited as I was. We were ready to get the program launched right then and there.

2. Relationships matter.
Over the years, I’ve built great relationships with countless vendors and suppliers, colleagues across Frito-Lay and people in the community. When it came time to source equipment and build our lab, I knew exactly who to reach out to for help. I’m indebted to those who have contributed.

3. See the big picture.
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of your day-to-day work. Sometimes you have to take a step back, and consider new ways of addressing the challenges you face. In the case of the HCCA Industrial Maintenance Program, a simple idea to improve our workplace is now actually benefiting the company as well as the larger community.

Three years after that initial call, we launched the HCCA Industrial Maintenance Program and students began their studies last fall. We have 16 students enrolled currently, double what we anticipated. We’re now starting to enroll for 2018-19, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m so thankful the HCCA took a chance on this program. It’s pretty amazing what can happen when your passion becomes reality.


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