Skill set

Remember Y2K? The folks at Elyria-based Ross Environmental Services Inc. do.

The new millennium required the hazardous and industrial waste management firm to upgrade its PCs, which included new software.

The problem was, about 75 of Ross’s 200 employees weren’t proficient with the latest versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, Publisher and other software. Some weren’t even familiar with the Microsoft Windows operating system.

“I know, it seems ancient now, but back then it wasn’t that uncommon,” says Maggie Kelch, Ross Environmental Services’ community relations manager. “At that point, we were faced with making the decision to find a vendor.”

Ross needed a computer trainer who could customize the classes to the employees’ different skill levels and who could offer classes when both the office employees and the shift workers in its Grafton plant could attend.

Kelch says the company partnered with Lorain County Community College’s Business Division to plan and coordinate the computer skills training.

“Over a period of a couple of months, we used LCCC’s training expertise and had employees come out to the college and take classes in a number of different computer software programs,” Kelch says. “That worked out extremely well for us because it was one of the bigger examples of work force training that we’d experienced.

“We had a very large number of people that we had to train in a very short time period and to come up to a standard that everyone could meet. Because when we installed the computers and brought in the new software, we needed everyone to know what they were doing without having to sit there and look at their monitor and say, ‘What the heck is this?'”

Since the company is involved in hazardous and industrial waste management, frequent employee training is an integral part of its business, Kelch says.

“Regulations with regard to our industry change very rapidly,” she says. “Having the ability to enable our employees to keep up with the newest technology and keep up with what they need to know to remain in compliance with the regulations is really critical to our success as a business.”

Education is such a large part of the company that last year, Ross took the training it does for its employees and put together a package of environmental training courses that is now offered to customers and students as noncredit courses at LCCC.

“We offer classes in safety, health and environmental topics at the college,” Kelch says. “We also do the training for the customers at their facility if they have a large group of people that they need to train and they’d rather do it at their site, like emergency response training, 24-hour safety and security.”

In June, Ross Environmental Services moved its headquarters, which it calls its Business Services Center, to the Great Lakes Technology Park on the campus of LCCC. The 30,000-square-foot building houses the 70 employees who make up Ross’s marketing, sales, customer service, accounting, purchasing, scheduling/logistics, human resources, government affairs and community relations departments. How to reach: Ross Environmental Services Inc., (440) 366-2000; Lorain County Community College, (800) 995-5222