Company trains technical manufacturers

Photonics firms create a solid market for trainers, founder says

Small business

October 08, 2001|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Howard County has been a magnet for technology manufacturers in part because of the photonics companies that have clustered in Columbia. Now the cluster has attracted a new type of business to town - technical training.

Opto-Electronics Training International gave its first classes in electronics and fiber optics to technicians from Corvis Corp. last week, and it hopes to add manufacturers in the area to its client base, executives said.

The company is scheduled to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at its 10,000-square-foot training office in the Gateway business park.

Even in a slow economy, company President Gilbert R. Bannister said, OETI can thrive.

"It's actually a good time," he said. Manufacturers "can't afford to hire new people, so you figure out how to get the most out of the employees you have with training. They need to make their people proficient."

In a tight economy, training departments are one of the first groups on the chopping block as companies cut costs, he said.

"What they usually do is cut back training departments, but you still need to get those [employees] trained," Bannister said. "That's what we do. We're the outsourcer in skills training. It actually saves a company money."

The slow economy and company cutbacks gave OETI its start.

Bannister and his staff of instructors all worked in Corvis' technical training department, but the members were bought out in June when the company cut its staff.

Bannister used the opportunity to start a business and bought training equipment for four laboratories. Last month, he hired his former training team - a group that specializes in soldering electronics and splicing fiber.

Corvis, now without a training department, has become OETI's first client. But OETI has also been casting its net far and wide to entice others, said Tony Williams, vice president for sales and marketing.

The business uses the latest equipment to offer customized training to electrical technicians for soldering and the reassembly of damaged computer boards, and to fiber optics manufacturers in fiber splicing.

The company trains its students on the equipment that is most familiar to them - the same equipment they use at work.

"We want to train so that it's applicable when you go to work Monday morning," Bannister said.

OETI is one of the few training centers in the region to offer IPC-certified training, an electronic assembly standard developed by an electronics trade association of the same name.

Bannister said the company will work to become an IPC-certified center, which would add distinction for the business and the region.

The closest IPC training centers are in Philadelphia and Alabama, according to the trade group. Having a certified center in the area can be a boost to the local economy, said Robert A. Vitas, vice president for professional development of IPC.

"It gives a local company the best of both worlds - they have the local training, and they're able to get it in a cost effective way," Vitas said. "Companies are looking for high quality but cost-effective ways to deliver their training."

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