DANVILLE – When Stephanie Yates, director of corporate education at Danville Area Community College, toured the newly acquired U.S. Army Reserve Center, she could see the possibilities.
“It looks like it’s part of the college. It all flows together,” she said of the 3.5-acre parcel with two brick structures at the corner of East Main and Home streets.
“Having CDL back on campus is going to be the biggest benefit of the armory,” Yates said of relocating the semitrailer tractor training program to DACC’s main parking lot from a remote site near Garfield Park. “The semitrailers are branded with DACC on them, so they will be like moving billboards.
“It’s really going to be visual, and it will help promote the program ... all right from East Main Street.”
Forklift training, however, most likely will be the first program to take place at the newest addition to DACC’s campus. Yates said she is looking forward to being able to conduct forklift training year round in the former drill room that will be set up to mimic a warehouse environment.
“We don’t have space for forklift training, so we’ve been running it in the parking lot at Bremer (Center) unless it rains or snows,” she said. “I can’t offer forklift training in the winter, but now we can hold that training in an interior space.”
The indoor space will be equipped to allow forklift drivers-in-training to pick up pallets from tall racks, check visibility using a convex traffic mirror, make sharp turns and drive down aisles, Yates said.
“In the parking lot, we could only drive the forklifts in circles and lift up pallets and move pallets,” she said. “We’ve wanted to be able to simulate that experience of a logistics warehouse, and now we will be able to.
“Vermilion Advantage says the top jobs with openings are the logistics jobs,” Yates said. “I have a waiting list for forklift training, and with this space I can do training year round.”
In addition to forklift training, the former drill room also will be used for 40-hour hazardous materials training that entails the use of large equipment, robotics training, and training on programmable logic controllers that control machinery used at ThyssenKrupp and other local employers.
Having the extra space on campus also will allow the corporate education division to provide local employers with customized training opportunities.
“If an employer has certain equipment they want to train employees on, we can try to ship it in,” she said. “We can ship in mobile training units, which are sometimes in 400-pound boxes.”
The new facility also will help Yates fulfill another request she frequently receives from local employers, and that is developing employability skills and preparing people so they are ready to be employed.
“Companies are screaming for workers,” she said. “I get calls from employers all the time who say, ‘You get excited about a new employee, you get them trained, and then they quit showing up.’”
Yates said she would like to partner with Laura Lee Fellowship House and the Housing Authority of the City of Danville to provide essential skills training and encouragement with the help of a couple of community members.
“Some individuals don’t think they can get a job because they have a black mark on their record, and that’s simply not true,” she said.
“I have two gentlemen from Danville who are managers at car dealerships that would give them someone real and relatable,” Yates said. “They’ve been in their shoes. They’ve overcome the obstacles.
“They can teach them about accountability, dependability, being a team player, how to dress and how important their credit score is,” she said.
One of the biggest plans for the facility, however, is using it as a premier entertainment training center.
The mock casino training center could include blackjack tables, poker tables, crap tables, roulette tables, Pai Gow tiles and Pai Gow poker.
“We would provide training on the actual games and how to run the game tables,” Yates said. “We also could provide security-based training and general customer service and hospitality.
“It’s going to depend on the casino owners and their needs, but we want DACC to be able to provide the training,” she said. “With the armory, they can tell we’re taking this seriously, and we will be ready for them.”