A new mobile learning lab rolled into Western Excelsior for the first time this week.
By providing more training in electronic programing and circuitry, the company hopes to encourage employees to come up with new solutions to old problems and work toward greater automation.
"We really don't want a person doing a job that doesn't take advantage of their humanness," said Kyle Hanson, the business unit manager. Western Excelsior makes erosion control mats out of straw, aspen and synthetic materials. They also manufacture wood pellets for stoves.
This is the first time the $300,000 electronics lab has been used since it was unveiled in November.
Southwest Colorado Community College's lab, housed in 48-foot trailer, is equipped with hands-on tools to teach the basics of circuitry, programming and other skills and hosting classes for employees once a month through April.
On Monday the maintenance team started with the basics of electric circuits and will eventually learn to read the blueprints of an electrical system.
Hanson hopes that by the end of training the company will have collaborated on one of the automation opportunities with the instructor and constructed a prototype of a new system that will help cut out repetitive labor.
Hanson also hopes to do more and more on-site manufacturing of needed parts.
The training was funded by a $36,990 Colorado First and Existing Industry Grant. Part of the money was also used for in-house training to identify areas in the production line that could be improved.
The mobile lab is one of three at the local community college. The college also has one for mechanical systems and welding. The welding lab has been used at three mines regionally including one in Utah since November.
"The best way for these workforces to get their training, is to get it on location," said Tomas German-Palacios, operations coordinator in Pueblo Community College's Economic and Workforce Development Division.
Pueblo Community College started using mobile learning labs in 2005, and German-Palacios said he believes that having the training labs locally will be an economic draw.
"It makes the workforce of this area much more valuable and can potentially bring in additional companies in the future," he said.