Officials of Briggs & Stratton, the Quick Start program and Ogeechee Technical College signed an agreement Tuesday for training more than 100 new employees Briggs’ Stateboro plant will hire as it begins building Vanguard V-Twin engines.
Briggs & Stratton Corporation, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, announced in October that it will bring production of the two-cylinder engines home to its plants here and in Auburn, Alabama. Previously, these engines were assembled in Japan in a joint venture with Daihatsu.
In 22 years of previous operation, the Statesboro plant built only single-cylinder engines, and Briggs has projected its investment to renovate and equip the plant for the new line at $18 million.
“We currently are looking for technicians on all shifts, and as we’ve already started moving this project along, we’ll be steadily adding people between now and November when the production starts up on the new line,” Plant Manager James Suchovsky said Tuesday.
He expressed thanks to Quick Start, Ogeechee Tech and the state as a whole for the training program, which he said “is really going to give us the ability to train the folks to be successful in all of these jobs.”
Funded by the state of Georgia, the customized training will be provided free of charge to Briggs & Stratton. The Quick Start program operates as a division of the Technical College System of Georgia, or TCSG, and has its own instructors, independent of Ogeechee Tech and other colleges in the system.
Companies apply for Quick Start training as an incentive to job creation, and state officials consider the number and type of jobs created and the timeline in determining what projects qualify.
The state’s press release gave the number of jobs Briggs & Stratton is creating here as “approximately 107.” Not all of the hiring will be done by this fall. The new line will start up at about half capacity, and additional people will be hired probably into summer 2019, Suchovsky said.
This will boost the plant’s year-round work force to about 450 people, he said. Because demand for outdoor equipment engines is seasonal, the plant brings in additional workers when needed, and its workforce could expand during peak seasons to include more than 500 people.
The Statesboro plant has previously cast aluminum components for two-cylinder engines, but they were assembled in Auburn. Now the plant in Bulloch County’s Gateway Industrial Park will assemble the V-Twin small-block engines, ranging from 13 up to 23 horsepower, and will also make the aluminum castings needed for the larger-block V-Twin engines that will be assembled at the Auburn plant.
Quick Start’s customized training plan for Briggs includes a long list of topics, from pre-employment topics such as a company overview, shop math and engine theory to job-specific skills. Some workers will need training to work in the die-cast department; others, to work with assembly robots.
Quick Start will assign three or four instructors from its Savannah office to teach many of these skills and will bring in several other instructors from Atlanta as needed to provide specialized training, said Barry Grove, training coordinator with Quick Start. Training is expected to occur through 2018 and 2019.
Suchovsky, TCSG Assistant Commissioner for Quick Start Jackie Rohosky and Ogeechee Technical College President Lori Durden signed the training agreement in front of a little audience that included reporters.
This is the Briggs plant’s fourth time receiving training for employees through a Georgia Quick Start project, Suchovsky noted.
Ogeechee Tech, whose main campus is about two miles from the factory, has a different role. Briggs & Stratton has hired people out of the college’s industrial maintenance program, noted Suchovsky. He also called an industrial lab with Amatrol training stations that was set up on the OTC campus a few years ago ““very instrumental … to help develop the skillsets that we need.”
Durden noted that Suchovsky had input on establishing the lab and that Briggs & Stratton donated money to the OTC Foundation to equip it.
“Quick Start does their initial wave of training for this new run, and it’s our job to kind of take up the torch after Quick Start has completed this training plan,” Durden said after the ceremony. “We’re in it for the long haul with this company, and it’s our job to make sure that our programs and our graduates have the skills that this company needs to continue to fill their positions.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.