MARTINSBURG – A partnership that formed long before the Tabler Station Procter & Gamble became the manufacturing powerhouse it is today, the company and Blue Ridge Community and Technical College came together to help forge that path seen today. Since then, Tabler Station has become one of the top facilities within the P&G family, and Blue Ridge has been there every step of the way.
The pair continues to partner, a benefit for both the school and company as each expands.
“This isn’t new in terms of a big strategy for what we’ve had since we started and announced that P&G is going to be investing in the Eastern Panhandle,” Senior Human Resources Manager Ryan Moore said. “We’ve had a partnership with Blue Ridge, really, since 2016 when we first started. In fact, their extension campus, what’s known at the old Corning Plant area, our site initially started in one of their conference rooms and has grown from there. Summer 2016, our site leadership was in Conference Room T21, and then we expanded to the warehouse behind that. It has bloomed into an extension of our onboarding and our startup.
“It’s really been evolving since that time. There’s an early learning lab that’s actually been titled as such at the campus, the extension campus. We have a lot of our training still happening right now at the extension campus. We actually, still to this day, have been using some of their space for onboarding training for our new hires just to make sure we have social distancing and things like that.”
Using the facility and expertise from Elizabeth Spring, applied laboratory technology program manager and assistant professor, the two entities have come together to create a knowledgeable and dedicated workforce to benefit many companies in the area.
“I think it’s a win for everybody,” Spring said. “It’s a win for P&G. They’re maxed out on using their equipment. They need equipment to train their people. They need someone to train their people. They’re maxed out on people. It’s good for Blue Ridge. It certainly helps us in our mission to support the community and train students with a life-changing education. It’s good for the students. Their employed, and they’re building their skills. We’re hoping some of them will continue on and get a degree with Blue Ridge.
“We have an applied laboratory technician training program where students can earn a certificate degree or an associate in applied science degree and be trained to work in industrial or government laboratories like P&G, and P&G has been on our advisory board since the beginning. But just in the last few months have we began an collaboration, building a relationship so that we can provide some assistance to them as they train their new technicians.”
Spring recently ventured to Cincinnati earlier this year to really get hands-on training to better assist those students in the program, learning on P&G equipment from research scientists who have been involved with the Tabler Station facility. She recently held her first training session for four new employees and is looking forward to adding more components down the road.
“It is very impressive for a community college to have a lab with those capabilities,” Blue Ridge Associate Dean of Career Advancement Education Cynthia Hull said. “It’s not like a high school chemistry lab. It’s not like a college chemistry lab. Those things are located at the main campus. This is a manufacturing quality assurance training facility that is located over there. This really helps not only Procter & Gamble but all the manufacturers we work with, because it’s hard for them to take their equipment offline to train people. They have an aggressive manufacturing schedule. They need their equipment running 24/7. By Elizabeth having her lab set up the way its set up, we can have their employees come to us, and they don’t have to put their equipment down. We can take that burden off of them.”
The jobs that can come out of the partnership, those that Spring’s program can lead to, are benefits to the student body.
“These jobs that are available after taking Elizabeth’s program, the quality assurance techs, are good-paying jobs,” Hull said. “They’re good quality jobs.”
The partnership between P&G and Blue Ridge stretches its benefits to the consumer, as well, in the end, the two coming together really touching nearly every person in the community. With skilled technicians on the lines, the product coming out of the Tabler Station facility and being put on the shelves is one of high quality, something much needed in times like the current pandemic.
“What we’re continuing to find is the workforce we’re looking for to be successful P&Gers really is based on attitude and aptitude,” Moore said. “We’re looking for folks with a great attitude in terms of working and high-performance organization, but we’re also looking for folks with the right aptitude in order to train and learn and grow their skills within our site. With that, we are one of the largest plants for Procter & Gamble within a relatively short amount of time.
“We only started making our first products in February of 2018, which was Bounce dryer sheets. Since then, not only have we been an essential employer in the area but honestly, within the U.S. and beyond with some of the brands that we make that folks use every single day. That has led that we have a very high standard in terms of quality. We want to make sure all our brands leave the door at the finest quality to meet the consumers’ needs. That has led us to find out that we need to invest a little bit more in making sure we have an available workforce that can meet our laboratory technician needs, that really help ensure our brands are being produced at their best and are safe for every consumer to use.”
It’s a partnership that will surely meet the needs for many for years to come.
“More so than ever before, we are anxious and are happy to still be growing our partnership with Blue Ridge,” Moore said, “specifically having their training programs match our industry needs and our specific company needs for what we’re looking for in laboratory analysts, laboratory technicians that would be very successful in a career with us.
“Working with Blue Ridge has been, currently is and will continue to be a strategic part of our success. It’s, frankly, almost a model in many ways of how industry can partner with higher education in helping not only attract a great workforce for our company specifically but really help a higher-education institution, such as Blue Ridge CTC, better understand what the industry needs are to better prepare their students for a workforce, even if they don’t join Procter & Gamble. They evolve and are adaptable to what our changing needs are. We don’t settle on status quo; we can always improve. That’s a motto of Procter & Gamble, and it’s certainly a motto of theirs in our opinion.”