Gov. Bill Lee tours new training facility

Worldwide manufacturer Denso gave Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee a sneak peek of its new technical training center in Maryville on Friday.

The center, set to open Feb. 7, will keep regional Denso employees trained on the newest advanced manufacturing technologies as they develop.

The project is part of Denso’s commitment to invest $1 billion in its Maryville presence, first announced in 2017.

“This is one of the most important employers in Tennessee and you’re employing people that are a part of the future workforce,” Gov. Lee said in an address to Denso leadership during the tour. “The automotive industry is a major part of our economy here, it’s everchanging and you’re ever-changing as a leader in that industry.”

Denso manufactures products like alternators, intelligent cockpit instruments, keyless entry, blind spot detection, engine control units and wireless phone chargers.

The training center educates about 1,500 students a year and will offer training in labs focusing on electricity, robotics and mechanics.

Denso employees can take 53 hands on courses in areas like electrical, mechanical, mechatronic and fundamentals of automation.

Denso is also collaborating with Pellissippi State Community College, Roane State Community College and TCAT Knoxville to prepare future employees for new technologies as they develop. The need for ever-adapting training stems from major shifts in the auto industry, such as advanced safety systems for autonomous vehicles and the electrification of hybrid vehicles, Denso Maryville president emeritus Jack Helmboldt said.

The training center will offer new programs down the road in cyber security, artificial intelligence and data analytics, he added.

“There’s so many new things that have entered the market now because of a paradigm shift, and it becomes extremely necessary that we prepare for that,” Helmboldt said. “That’s what this training center is for ... is to try to prepare for what’s coming along with what we’re already doing.”

The facility isn’t just for people entering the Denso workforce but also for employees looking to move up in the company or develop new skills.

Trainees will learn not just how to operate new technologies but how to maintain, troubleshoot and repair them, said Don Tracy, vice president of Denso’s North America Technical Training Centers.

“Developing our associates is our No. 1 priority, because without them we’re never going to be successful in our market or in this region,” Tracy said. And as technology changes, so will Denso’s education programs.

“I’ve worked with skilled workers all my life, I understand why what you’re doing changes the life of people that live in this community, and it changes the community. I wish we had more and more companies like this one here,” Gov. Lee said. “But when we herald it and when we support it and when we create opportunities to partner you with the education system, it’s going to change more lives in this community.”

Denso has more than 171,000 employees worldwide, and the business employs more than 5,000 people at the Maryville facility.

It also has Tennessee facilities in Athens, Nashville and Jackson.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel

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Published January 10, 2020