Wake Tech students gain the right tools for the job

Employment offers follow Green Belt training with JMP®

ChallengeTo enhance students’ prospects for employment and job advancement by teaching Lean Six Sigma strategies for data-driven process and product improvement.
SolutionJMP® tools enable a visual and dynamic approach to Lean Six Sigma methodologies.
ResultsFour of seven unemployed students found jobs after the third session of the initial Wake Tech Lean Six Sigma Green Belt class.

To get the job done, you need the right tools. Lean Six Sigma students at Wake Technical Community College, based in Raleigh, NC, are learning that JMP statistical discovery software from SAS is a tool well worth carrying in their kits.

The principles of Lean Six Sigma – define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC), firmly rooted in statistics – today play an increasingly important role in almost every industry, from health care to retail to manufacturing. Features in JMP give students a visual and dynamic way to identify problems and improvement opportunities, uncover solutions and communicate results.

Wake Tech had been offering a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt class as part of its continuing-education program, but in 2011 decided to enhance the curriculum. To launch this initiative, the school recruited Tim Lucas and his 25-plus years of experience in business and industry.

The revised training was a great success, and Wake Tech’s first Black Belt class followed later that year.

An ambitious cadre of students arrives in Lucas’ classroom each session to learn how to use data to reduce waste and increase productivity in the workplace and how JMP can help them accomplish that goal. They come from numerous professions, bringing diverse experiences and interests.

“These are people taking the initiative to get themselves employed or to get ahead in their jobs,” Lucas says, “and recognizing what it is they need to do.”

No ‘hocus-pocus’

Wake Tech today extends educational opportunities to some 26,000 degree-seeking students. More than 40,000 are enrolled in continuing education. Wake Tech’s Business and Industry Services division, where Lucas teaches, provides corporate, industry and apprenticeship training; professional development; and Collegea small-business center. Lucas’ focus is on corporate training.

When he was brought in to introduce Lean Six Sigma, Lucas was given the freedom to choose the software he thought best suited for the task. He had never used JMP before, but his research indicated it was the right choice. He then set about to learn it.

With assistance from JMP technical experts, and taking full advantage of a wealth of webcasts and other online resources, Lucas soon felt comfortable. Thirteen students signed up for the initial Green Belt class – more than Lucas had anticipated – and they did not match the profile he’d expected. Seven of the 13 were out-of-work professionals.

“We learned that we had tapped into the unemployed,” Lucas says. “We knew we were going to get professionals, but thought they would be working professionals.

“They had been in upper management and various careers; some were well into their 50s, and there they were without work,” Lucas says. Most had college degrees, and plenty of skills to offer, but none had any significant statistical training. Lucas knew he had something of great value to offer.

“I tell my students that this is not hocus-pocus,” he says, “that this is the real stuff, and that it helps companies be successful.”

Practical value

“I am not a statistician and I am not a JMP guru,” Lucas declares. But he’s found JMP to be easy to both learn and teach.

“JMP is intuitive. But it’s also very deep, very robust,” he says. “It’s more than what a Green Belt needs. But I want my people to have the best software available. So I tell them, ‘Go as far as you want to go.’”

His classes are interactive, including a lot of one-on-one and small-group work. Online curriculum is also a key element, and personal initiative is important. “We don’t spend a lot of time on JMP in the classroom,” Lucas says. “They get it demonstrated to them, but then they do it on their own.”

Keith Gray, an assistant service manager at a local auto dealership and a graduate of Lucas’ Green Belt and Black Belt classes, is among those who ran with the opportunity.

“JMP has given me a practical way to use a software to help measure, analyze, improve and control a project,” Gray says.

For his Green Belt class project, Gray tackled customer service. The objective was to increase by 10 percent the number of customers who come through his service department each day by reducing the time it took to service each vehicle. In his research, Gray discovered a need for more detailed coding of work-order data, a more thorough review with customers of invoices and work orders, and improvement in the dealership’s call-center process.

Gray calculated that a 10 percent increase in customers served would add more than $1 million a year in revenue.

JMP allowed for a more robust analysis of his data, Gray says, and its graphical features made his results more accessible, so he could better communicate the results to co-workers and managers.

“JMP turns out these beautiful graphs,” Lucas says. “My students have found them extremely effective.”

Retooling

Lucas uses JMP more extensively in the Black Belt class, which he began with seven students who’d been through Green Belt training. “Black Belt training is all about statistics,” he explains. Six of his first seven students earned Black Belt certifications after completing his class.

Lucas continues to tap into support offered by JMP, ranging from consultations to training materials and even occasional in-class instruction by JMP experts.

At the outset of his Green Belt classes, Lucas tells his students to add “Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training (in progress)” to their resumes. After the third session of his first class, he says, four of the seven unemployed students had found jobs.

“This training is all about helping companies reduce costs, improve efficiencies and productivity, and offer higher quality. Companies want people who have these skill sets,” Lucas observes. “And even though they hadn’t yet earned their certification, they had enough knowledge in three sessions to talk the talk in their interviews.”

Lucas says his phone rings steadily these days with calls from people who have heard about his Wake Tech classes. He has 18 students enrolled in his current Green Belt course. The numbers just keep growing.

“They’re retooling and positioning themselves in such a manner that they can be valuable members of their organizations,” Lucas says. “And that’s a great thing.”

Tim Lucas, Wake Tech Community College
JMP is intuitive. But it’s also very deep, very robust.
Tim Lucas

Wake Tech Community College

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