Southeast Students Complete 16-Week TG Missouri Leadership Program


Southeast student Hannah Seyer, left, leads a morning meeting.

Two Southeast Missouri State University students and a recent Southeast graduate piloted a 16-week TG Missouri Leadership Program this spring at Toyoda Gosei (TG Missouri) in Perryville, Missouri, as part of the industry’s TG University.

Laura Gohn of Jackson, Missouri, Hannah Seyer of Chaffee, Missouri, and Heath Pobst of Scott City, Missouri, earned Southeast credit after completing an internship and project during the spring semester. The program was created to assist TG Missouri with succession planning and leadership enhancement. The experience offered the Southeast students hands-on training and education in leadership roles in the manufacturing industry, while preparing them for future employment with TG Missouri. Subjects covered during the coursework included leadership, goal setting, quality, safety and problem-solving.

The students worked full-time throughout the semester, receiving one-on-one training with TG supervisors. The students were given leadership responsibilities and individually completed three leadership projects. The first involved identifying ways to improve a manufacturing strategy within their section. The second was a “Lean Project,” in which the students determined ways to create efficiency within a process. The third was a goal-setting assignment.

TG University collaborated with Southeast on the TG Missouri Leadership Program, building upon the already established Supervisor Certification Program (SCP), which combines quality small group instruction with real-time learning experiences.

Southeast student Heath Pobst works on a 5S Project.

The program included formal classroom instruction, on-site instruction, hands-on projects and fieldwork with assigned mentors at both the supervisor and manager levels within the organization. Subjects covered during the coursework include Toyota Production System fundamentals, leadership, goal setting, quality, safety and problem solving.

While most of the slots were filled by TG employees, the company granted three spots in the program to Southeast senior-level students or above with a minimum 3.0 grade point average and with majors in either technology or business allowing them college credit.

Gohn is pursuing a Master of Science in technology management, customized option, and plans to graduate in August. Seyer is a senior technology management major who plans to graduate in December. Pobst graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science in technology management, industrial and safety management option.

Gohn said she interned as a production supervisor this spring, during which she completed TG Missouri’s four-week supervisor certification training. In her role, she was responsible for supervising 14 team members with one section of production, administrative tasks, production scheduling and problem-solving.

“I saw this internship as an opportunity to expand my leadership experience, as well as my knowledge of lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System,” she said. “This internship added application skills and knowledge to the theory that I learned at Southeast. I never imagined lean manufacturing or the Toyota Production System on TG Missouri’s scale. It is very complex. I also gained supervision skills within a manufacturing environment.”

The experience was especially beneficial, Gohn said, because her immediate supervisor had 16 years of experience at TG Missouri.

“She was able to teach me a lot during the 16 weeks,” she said. “I also enjoyed meeting people who work at TG, and hearing about their experiences with the company.”

Southeast students Laura Gohn, left, and Hannah Seyer, right, work on a kaizen.

Dr. Brad Deken, interim dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at Southeast, said, “The program was very immersive and gave them real-world experiences working alongside supervisors who provided a lot of experience and knowledge to help guide the students.”

Dr. Sophia Scott, interim chair of the Southeast Department of Engineering and Technology, added, “The students learned a great deal about working in a manufacturing company and setting, and were able to build their leadership skills.”

To gauge the effectiveness of the program, participants are evaluated by their managers before the 16-week learning opportunity begins to create a baseline. Upon completion, the graduating participants are re-evaluated by their managers. Participants must also complete a presentation

covering what they learned. TG University uses the data from both their presentation and evaluations to measure program effectiveness and future development needs.

Toyoda Gosei employees and Southeast* student participants in the TG Missouri Leadership Program are from left: Hannah Seyer*, Heath Pobst*, Veronica Gonzalez, Jess Berkbigler, Laura Gohn*, LaTwanza Watson, Chris Kasson, Shawn Wheeler, Brian Brake and Adrian Hernandez.

The 16-week Supervisor Learning Opportunity was proven a success, according to both TG and Southeast officials. The three Southeast students have been granted internships and potential for full-time employment after graduation at TG Missouri. In addition, three participating TG Missouri employees are now moving into either a supervisor or leader tech role following completion of the program. Additionally, TG Missouri participants in the program have the option to continue their education through Southeast and will receive up to 15 hours of continuing education credits.

TG University plans to offer another 16-week Supervisor Learning Opportunity at TG Missouri at the end of this year.

This summer, Gohn is continuing to work at TG Missouri as a Pre-Production Intern. Pre-Production is a project-based area of the company that works with customers, such as Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Ford and TG support groups to design and create parts before they reach the mass-production stage. Pre-Production also works with support groups to create the logistics of production and shipping. So far, she has worked with a Pre-Production program manager and support groups, including Quality Engineers, Machine Engineers and Manufacturing Engineers. She also plans to help create and edit technical documents for the pre-production process.

“I hope to gain another perspective of how TG operates,” she said, since her first internship was solely production related. “Pre-production is a completely different environment and process.”

After completing her master’s degree, Gohn hopes to land a permanent, full-time management or engineering position in a manufacturing setting, she said.

“I would like to extend my sincere thanks to TG Missouri for partnering with Southeast to develop and implement this innovative program,” said Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University. “We are very pleased with the results and with the hands-on leadership training our students received to prepare them for future roles in the manufacturing setting. We look forward to a continued collaboration with TG to continue to grow the local workforce.”

Fred Ducharme, Senior General Manager with TG Missouri, expressed his enthusiasm for the Southeast students participating in the program.

“We will gain access to strong and available talent who have the desire to remain employed in this region,” Ducharme said.  “This program is a welcome establishment in creating a strong foundation for economic growth and succession planning for years to come. The TG University team located in Perryville has been instrumental in making this program a success in partnership with Southeast Missouri State University.  Angela Prost – TGU Manager, Corey Brooks – Career and Development Specialist and, Jennifer Lauck – Learning & Development Specialist, together are all responsible for the development, tracking, and success of the program and all other training requirements for Toyoda Gosei.  TG Missouri also had supervisors that played a key role.  We would like to thank Robin Walter, Jeanine Simpson, Mike Brown and Debbie Haynes for thinking outside the box and partnering on the new program.  Dean Link, TGMO President, and Rhonda Ruark, General Manager of Corporate Administration, are big champions of the TG Missouri Leadership Program. We all look forward to the continued success and partnership with SEMO as we focus on growing local and skilled talent.”

Deken said the TG Missouri Leadership Program has proven beneficial to the Southeast students as they prepare to launch their careers.

“The purpose of the program was to blend work experience into our curriculum to better prepare students for the workforce at TG Missouri or other companies,” Deken said. “We found a lot of value with this program,” he said. “The hope is to provide a pipeline for companies like TG Missouri, and it’s a great example of how to train and prepare students for a future career. We look forward to working with TG Missouri to continue to expand and improve it for future students,” he said.