ENID, Okla. — Autry Technology Center’s mission goes beyond educating high school students in vocational training.

Autry Tech’s corporate training involves more than 500 companies at all stages of their business life cycle, according to Connect, Autry’s promotional magazine.

It’s motto is “Business thrives when our community thrives.”

The pitch for business training is in three parts: affordable, personalized training opportunities to support business and employee growth; superior services, strategies and training programs to meet challenges; and a dedicated staff and extensive network of resources to provide expertise in any subject matter.

“We have short-term courses that we can teach these people to get their skills and abilities up to a level that they are employable for those businesses, and we can work with them after they are employed to further their certification and things that would help that business to be more profitable,” said Brian Gaddy, Autry’s vice president of corporate training.

“We want them to help them become more efficient and help them work safely. We can run the gauntlet of what it takes to maintain a business of any size or level.”

Meeting the needs

The work of Autry’s business consultants, Gaddy said, is to go and meet with business leaders on a one-on-one basis to not only learn their needs but to become a trusted business partner.

“We try to meet their needs,” he said. “If they have a need or something they want us to look at and say we can improve in this area, we can do that through either a course or through one-on-one training. It’s going out and getting an industry expert to come in and help them through their problems and the issues they have.”

The consultants then brainstorm with a group of specialists who divide the work and take real solutions back to the companies and get them their training, Gaddy said.

Gaddy estimates in a normal year some 13,000 to 15,000 workers will receive some type of training.

Forming a relationship

An Executive Leadership Council, made up of 25 businesses, meets once a month to bring up certain issues within their companies.

“These major employers can bounce ideas off each other within their network,” said Kyle Hockmeyer, assistant director of corporate training, “and get to know each other.”

The group has grown from having only five companies in the 1990s. It also includes legislative and Enid Developmental Alliance representatives and City Manager Gerald Gilbert. Both Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell have spoken to the group.

Those relationships form a business network between Autry and local industries.

“It comes down to when they need training, they call us to try to develop those relationships,” Gaddy said. “All of the time we’re trying to bring real solutions to real problems.”

Leadership training includes training and consulting services through structured courses and one-on-one coaching to provide skills needed to become successful leaders, as well as assistance with leadership, human relations, work processes, coaching and handling conflict to help a business grow into its role in the community.

Connect Magazine reports customizable topics offered include active listening, critical thinking, crucial conversations, emotional intelligence, negotiating for results and time management.

The biggest challenge, Gaddy said is getting the word out help is available and not having a company wait until it might be too late.

“People face challenges in business where they get struck and don’t know who to call,” Gaddy said. “If they call us, we can find a way to a solution or we’ll find the resources they need to get them headed in the right direction. We may not know all of the answers, but we’re part of a CareerTech system that has schools all over the state. If we don’t have the answer, we can find somebody who has faced that problem.”

A focus on safety

Another offering by ATC that is popular in the community and area is its safety training program, which covers creation of safer work environments, meeting OSHA and other requirements, lowering workers’ compensation costs and personalization for individual needs.

“It’s to keep people going home every night with all of their fingers and their lives,” Gaddy said.

Gaddy said the trainers try to customize the safety training for each company “to make sure we don’t do the same thing twice.”

Autry’s staff works with the manufacturer when training employees how to run and maintain equipment. Sometimes four to five companies will combine on training to share costs.

“We don’t want to send people out of town,” Hockmeyer said. “Bringing it here is saving time and money and resources.”

Improving efficiency is another high priority, especially in manufacturing concerns.

“It saves money and makes you more profitable in the end.” Gaddy said. “Employees, many times are the ones that make that improvement. Those with higher job satisfaction know they have an input in the way things are ran. Usually those programs are efficient for the companies that take part in them.”

Autry has two bilingual safety trainers. Gaddy and Hockmeyer have been discussing having English classes for Spanish-speaking workers and vice versa.

Always something to learn

The teachers or so-called experts are challenged to stay on top of industrial innovation.

“We learn way more than the people we help,” Gaddy said. “In almost every single thing that we do, we learn from it.”

The trainees often have to overcome skepticism, Gaddy said, “but if you teach them something they can use and something that makes their jobs and lives better, then they look at that differently.”

The classes or training can go from an hour’s safety class to projects that could last two or three years “by the time they really get into it and keep using it … if you see an improvement in this area, you go on to the next area and the next area and that can last for several years.”

Hockmeyer said the object of manufacturing training, for instance, is to “teach them the skills they need to run their own classes and own improvement projects. The trainer has stepped away over the years as long as they have people that can handle that and do their own improvement projects as they come up with new ways to refine the process.”

Room to brainstorm

Training is held either at Autry or at the company site. A lot depends on the company culture, Gaddy said.

Autry does have a number of training facilities that can handle groups from 10 to 100.

The Autry Foxhole, according to Connect, provides companies with an “amazing bright, spacious room” specifically designed to connect to employees, partners and clients and to cultivate breakthrough ideas and innovative solutions.

The Capital Room is a high-end, high-tech and highly collaborative workspace that will amplify the decision-making process. The 360-degree view around the 30-person executive conference table is designed to bring a group together, Gaddy said.

“We have some really nice areas built for brainstorming,” Gaddy said. “The Foxhole has light boards all around the room, and you can get people in there and thinking.”

Gaddy said Autry has increased its online presence for meetings but prefers face-to-face as the instructor has more options.

In dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, Autry has tried to get as much input from the medical field as possible, Hockmeyer said.

Meeting individual needs

Gaddy said he is trying to increase Autry’s work with retail business, noting city budgets are heavily dependent on sales tax revenue.

“There’s a lot of ways people can get a hold of us,” Gaddy said. “They are welcomed to call me or Kyle to get them to the right people.”

The school also has employed agricultural business management sessions to help farmers understand the different programs that are out there, such government loans and applying for them. Instructors assist farmers with goal setting, computerized record keeping, marketing, capital budgeting, financial state preparation and analysis, risk management and tax management.

They also offer instruction and consulting services through both structured course seminars and individual farm and in-office visitations.

“We have an individual that is very experienced in doing that,” Hockmeyer said.

Every year Autry brings in the Oklahoma Tax Commissioner and other accountants to talk tax issues.

“We’re not trying to be a CPA or lawyer,” Gaddy said. “We don’t have degrees and certifications in that. We step back and let the experts be the experts, but we don’t mind leading people to the experts.”

Gaddy, who has worked at Autry for 20 years, has been in current position for 11 years. He has seen the training staff expand from five to 30.

“We’re getting there,” he said. “The important part is when they do need your help, we’re here.”

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Campbell is a former sports writer and current part-time writer for the News & Eagle, enidnews@enidnews.com.

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Graduate of Oklahoma City John Marshall (1972) and University of Oklahoma. Been at News & Eagle since June 19, 1978. Previously worked at Oklahoma Journal, Midland, Texas Reporter & Telegram, Norman Transcript, Elk City Daily News

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