Production Technician Academy’s Inaugural Class Graduates

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The first class to enroll in Kalamazoo Valley Community College's Production Technician Academy graduated in June. The intensive training program was developed with input from area manufacturers who are looking for qualified applicants.

The inaugural class from Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Production Technician Academy graduated on June 28, after four and a half weeks of intensive training. Graduate Brendan Hagenbaugh, 21, said he was initially leery about the academy, but quickly realized that his instructors Duane Hagen and David Begnoche were helping him to become equipped with skills that will last a lifetime.

“For a couple of years I’d heard that there were no manufacturing jobs so at first I was a tad skeptical,” the Lawton, Michigan resident said. “I learned quite a lot about quality control and how to interpret blue prints. They did a really good job, especially since it was the pilot program.”

Hagenbaugh was one of 11 students to graduate from the Academy, which was designed by local employers who were looking for a way to fill local manufacturing positions with qualified production workers. A number of area manufacturers, agencies, and foundations established a scholarship fund to cover the cost of tuition for the first class of students to participate in the academy.
“Many manufacturers worked together to get it launched,” Cindy Buckley, Executive Director of Training at Kalamazoo Valley Community College said of the Academy. “We’re proud of the graduates and anxious to follow their success.”

The Academy is housed at Kalamazoo Valley’s Groves Campus and includes competency-based training designed to prepare graduates for entry level positions and successful, long-term careers in manufacturing. Graduates received a transcript of demonstrated skills and competencies that manufacturers recognize and value.

William Yates, Supervisor of Liquid Operations at Pfizer, was a part of the training work group that helped develop the program. He was the keynote speaker at graduation. “Congratulations on jumping into the program,” he told the graduates. “I view this as an incredible opportunity. Manufacturing is not just a job, I really believe manufacturing is an amazing career opportunity.”
Yates, who has worked for Pfizer for 15 years, started out in manufacturing at the Perrigo Company as a 19-year-old. His first job involved packaging bottles and the routine could be monotonous. “I realized that those people that wanted to have success there were finding success,” Yates said.

Yates said he remains passionate about manufacturing. “I want these jobs to be there for my children,” he said. “Jobs went away for a little bit, but jobs are back.” He told the graduates that he looks for a “double A” applicant when seeking to fill job vacancies. “Those that develop aptitude and have the right attitude will find success,” he said. “I’ve never seen that type of person not find success.”

Yates told the graduates to be proud of their achievement and that many people will be watching them to see where this training takes them. “Go ahead and apply at Pfizer,” he quipped.

Hagen also addressed the graduates. “You’ve got what it takes to restart your lives after some pretty bumpy roads,” he said.
He told the group that his father, a lifelong manufacturer, would be proud of their success.

“Use the knowledge you’ve been given through this opportunity and don’t stop learning,” Hagen said.
Kalamazoo resident Tamara Pearson took part in the academy and learned more than she had gleaned from many years in manufacturing. “I’m anxious to get back to work,” she said, explaining that after her previous employer closed she devoted her time to caring for family. She called the academy a wonderful opportunity. “I learned a lot about how to prevent waste and increase quality – how to not just be a worker on the job, but to be a thinker.”

Pearson said she’s optimistic about the future of manufacturing. “I’m very encouraged to see that manufacturing is getting better and excited to see what jobs are going to be opening up for us.”

Training in the Academy included an introduction to the manufacturing industry; safety and OSHA regulation training; Lean Manufacturing training; team work group participation; Applied Math Fundamentals; Industrial Blueprint Reading; Precision Measurement; Quality Management training; basic electrical and mechanical training; an introduction to Programmable Logic Control; Basic Industrial Fluid Power training; computer usage; and job search and interviewing preparation.

The next Production Technician Academy will begin in August. For more information go to, call 269-353-1286 or email careeracademies(at)kvcc(dot)edu.

The Academy is one of several training programs housed at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Groves Campus. Located eight miles southwest of downtown Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Valley Groves Center is located on The Groves Campus, one of three campuses associated with Kalamazoo Valley Community College. With proximity to two major north-south and east-west traffic carriers, it is based in one of Southwest Michigan’s fastest-growing business corridors at Exit 72 off of I-94. More information is available at


Production Technician Academy instructor Duane Hagen

Production Technician Academy graduate Tamara Pearson

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Dawn Kemp
Kalamazoo Valley Community College
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