Mission Possible

In the post Maytag-era, Kim Didier and the team at DMACC Business Resources are investing in the future through a creative approach to economic development.

STORY BY NICK TAYLOR  |  IMAGES BY PHILLIP HARDER AND CHARLIE WITTMACK

Kim Didier moved home to Iowa 17 years ago with an infant in arms, a husband in tow and a new masters degree framed and ready to hang.  The gig that prompted the move from Indianapolis was a leadership role with the City of Newton, supporting employment at the City’s biggest employer, Maytag.  As she and her husband drove west, back to the arms of friends and family, life was full of possibility.

Eventually Kim moved inside Maytag and transitioned into a corporate role dedicated to employee training and development.  Over the years that followed, Kim worked to help the workforce at Maytag adapt and succeed in a complex manufacturing environment where stedfast manufacturing principals suddenly appeared to be changing day-by-day due to globalization.

Needless to say, Kim had a front-row seat for events that followed.  As the company declined and the acquisition offers began to float in, Kim’s role transitioned from training and development to retraining and redevelopment.  Then as the SEC was evaluating Whirlpool’s offer to purchase Maytag and shut down Iowa operations, Kim accepted a new role leading Newton’s economic development through the transition into the post-Maytag era.

“I saw first hand what happens to a community when a major employer is lost and I became passionate about making sure it didn’t happen again,” Kim said.

After the transition was complete, Kim took on a role as the Executive Director of DMACC’s Business Resource department (frequently referred to as “DBR”).

“Ninety-percent of the population thinks of DMACC as a place for kids who have just graduated from high school,” Didier said. “We’re here because we know that education doesn’t end with a two-year degree or certificate.  We’re dedicated to life-long learning that continues to bring satisfaction and fulfillment to an individual, while also bringing ongoing value to a company.”

With support from the State and Iowa Workforce Development, DBR is working to make sure that employers have the workforce they need in Iowa to stay competitive, grow and prosper.

“We know that the best strategies, business plans, technology and marketing must be implemented by trained and motivated personnel to be successful,” said Kim.  “We work with businesses to hire employees or upscale an existing workforce to implement those strategies.”

The breadth of projects undertaken by Kim and her team at DBR is matched only by the amount of creativity they employ with their partners.

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Nationwide recently turned to DBR in an effort to obtain a more qualified pool of job applicants.  Working with DMACC’s Continuing Education department, DBR created a certificate program, “The Fundamentals of Insurance Program,” which is sponsored by Nationwide and prepared participants for entry-level positions in the insurance industry.  Class topics included principals of insurance and risk management, instructions on how to complete personal and commercial insurance applications, a session on “dealing with difficult personalities,” a refresher on how to draft a resume and tips to nail the interview.  Everyone who completes the course is guaranteed an interview with Nationwide.

In addition to providing creative programmatic offerings, DBR is also adept at using state funding to subsidize workforce development projects.

Matt Boelman, Vice President of Perficut Companies turned to DBR for assistance in developing tools to retrain and expand its workforce.  Perficut recently became the first company in Iowa and Nebraska to have a snow and ice management program that was certified under a rigorous new international quality standard known as “SN9001.”  The company serves critical sites such as hospitals and clinics, manufacturing and shipping centers, and high-traffic retail and corporate locations; and undertook the certification process so that it would have the same commitment to safety and quality as it’s clients.  However, adoption of the new standard required Perficut to redesign it’s entire service model from the way employees and service providers were trained, to the manner in which they communicated information to their clients, to the way each service was performed and documented.

“We literally rebuilt our entire service delivery process, from the point of hiring a new team member to the point we bill a client for a service that has been performed.  Then we retrained our entire workforce to use the new system in a period of about six weeks,” said Boelman.  “It was the biggest transformation of our business in our twenty-five year history.”

The technology that supported the new service model was developed by The Wittmack Group, a business strategy firm led by attorney Charlie Wittmack.  To implement the new system for Perficut, The Wittmack Group partnered with DBR to create an online training hub where Perficut’s workforce could complete a series of 38 training videos that took them through every aspect of the redesigned process.  Development of the training tools were funded in part through grants from a collection of state programs administered by DBR.

“Kim is one of the most creative workforce development experts I’ve ever met,” said Matt Boelman, Vice President of Perficut Companies. “She’s an out-of-the box thinker who is completely dedicated to helping Iowa companies be successful through the development and training of a workforce.”

“This project was a little like watching a hurricane make landfall,” said Wittmack.  “It was an extremely complex strategy for Perficut with huge stakes, a team of aggressive outside quality auditors and a very tight deadline.  Throughout the entire implementation, DBR always made us feel like we were safe and sound in the eye of the storm.  They are really a tremendous partner.”

DBR has also developed strategies to support the manufacturing sector.  After Vermeer realized that a shortage of qualified MIG welders was limiting their growth potential, they teamed up with DBR to create an enhanced MIG welding program throughout the region.  DMACC was then able to leverage state “PACE” and “GAP” funds and the “Iowa New Jobs Training Program” to ensure that the training was accessible and affordable.

“We have been able to partner with DBR in developing innovative and successful models for recruiting, assessing and training Vermeer employees,” said Mary Vermeer Andringa, President and CEO of Vermeer Corporation.  “The models address our demand for highly skilled employees.”

Now, even with this string of successes, you can’t help but get the sense that DBR is just getting started.

“We’re working hard to prevent another Maytag.  We want to help businesses stay competitive and help them find new markets,” said Kim. “We’re investing in our people, because as a state, they are our greatest resource.”

“The highlight of this job is seeing people whose lives have been turned around because they have been exposed to adult learning and advancing their skills,” Kim said.  “The future of Iowa is bright.  It’s exciting to be part of it.”

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Learn more at DMACC.edu/dbr

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