First full graduate of manufacturing program at WNC excited about future |

First full graduate of manufacturing program at WNC excited about future

Nick Coltrain

Perry Turpin walked toward the baby-blue fire hydrants and described them in tones often reserved for lakeside sunsets.

“They’re beautiful,” Turpin said, “just beautiful.”

Turpin is the fire hydrant supervisor at American AVK in Minden, and it’s clear he loves his job – enough that he juggled single parenthood with a newly developed curriculum at Western Nevada College designed specifically for manufacturing skill development.

His recent graduation made him the first person to go through 100 percent of the coursework and earn his Manufacturing Foundations Certificate (others finished the program first, but with some of the credits completed before the program was developed).

Turpin jokes that a lot of people made a big deal out of his completion of the program – Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell even gave him a certificate of congratulations last week – but for Turpin, taking advantage of the program, and his company’s tuition help, was hardly a choice at all.

“To me, it was like a no-brainer,” he said. “If you get set up to succeed and put the work in, then you’ll succeed.”

Turpin said he hopes to use the skills he learned from the program to keep climbing the ladder at American AVK, which manufactures valves and hydrants for use all over the world. In particular, he cited the classes on human relations for employment and shop mathematics as useful: The first helped him navigate the daily interactions with co-workers and subordinates, and the second honed a skill he had never quite grasped in his younger days.

“The instructors were really smart and they made it easy to learn,” Turpin said. “I really picked it up.”

He’s quick to point out that his accomplishments largely come from the help around him. Some of his managers would organize study sessions on their lunch breaks to help Turpin grasp concepts from an engineering class.

Al Jurkonis, president of American AVK and part of the advisory committee that developed the WNC curriculum, said the goal of the classes was to give employers a sense of what those who hold the certificate know.

“The whole idea is that this certificate means something, that it’s not just a piece of paper,” he said.

At the Northern Nevada Development Authority breakfast where Crowell presented the certificate to Turpin, Jurkonis said the training will hopefully fill a void and answer questions that manufacturers looking at the region may have about work force development.

And past that, it’s also a showing of WNC and manufacturers’ learning to work together, he said. He described past efforts to develop a curriculum as WNC asking, “What do you need?” and manufacturers responding with, “What can you do?”

“It would always end up with a lot of talk and sort of die under its own weight,” he said.

Rob Hooper, executive director of the NNDA, praised the effort as giving the region another way to prove that its workforce can handle whatever new or relocating businesses need. He was also unequivocal about the benefits to those hoping to work in those industries.

“This isn’t just for employees,” Hooper said. “This is for people who want to be employees.”