Jeld-Wen dedicates learning center in Rantoul space

Jeld-Wen dedicates learning center in Rantoul space

RANTOUL — A Rantoul company has opened a learning center that will bring hundreds of people to the community for training each year.

On Wednesday, Jeld-Wen, manufacturer of windows and doors, unveiled the Midwest Learning Center — the first of three such centers to be opened in the country.

Jeld-Wen Vice President Jim Parello said the opening is one more indication that the building trades have recovered from the recession that rocked the country in the latter part of the last decade.

"We had not had a formal training program at Jeld-Wen for a number of years," Parello said. "Like a lot of companies, when the recession hit in 2007-08, certainly a lot of programs were pulled and costs were managed down. Training for a lot of corporate America" was a victim of the tough economic times.

The learning center is part of a major renovation of the Rantoul plant that also includes an upgraded customer service department.

Parello said Rantoul was selected because of its location, availability to transportation and nearby lodging.

"When we looked at geographically where we wanted to be, it had to be easy to get in and out of for our customers," Parello said.

A wide range of "students" from throughout the Midwest will be trained at the center, including Jeld-Wen customers, dealers and architects.

The center is part of an overall learning focus that the company calls Jeld-Wen University. It will also feature four mobile show rooms the company will deploy to customers who are unable to travel to Rantoul for training, as well as an online learning management system.

Among the topics to be taught: industry trends; housing industry projections ("If you're a dealer, it helps you to learn what to expect," Parello said); product details and industry requirements. For instance, window requirements are different in Illinois than they are in areas prone to hurricanes.

Coursework will also be available for architects taking continued education units.

The company used existing space at the Rantoul facility to house the learning center. Added were training and conference rooms, a breakout training area and a showroom for windows and doors, to be used both in the training forum and to display for customers.

Derek Brosterhouse, Jeld-Wen's director of training, said an average of 30 people a week will venture to Rantoul to learn at the center, with a capacity to serve up to 50 at a time. Most "students" will spend about three days at a time there.

The display area includes representative products made by Jeld-Wen, which is the only company in the nation that manufactures a full line of both doors and windows.

The learning facility will teach customers to become better sales people and will "incorporate installation," Brosterhouse said.

Mark Beck, Jeld-Wen's president and CEO, is a proponent of continued learning.

"I think it's important to note that the name of this new facility is the learning center," Beck said during a grand-opening ceremony. "It's not the training center. It's a place where people can all come and learn. This is an important value to me personally."

Mayor Chuck Smith noted Rantoul has a history affiliated with learning — alluding to the community being the former home of Chanute Technical Training Center.

"It is a community that has built its foundation on that," Smith said.

Plant profile

3 things to know about Jeld-Wen's Rantoul facility:

It's where windows and doors are built, then sold at Home Depot, Menards and traditional dealers.

Annually, it processes more than 150,000 calls as well as about 50,000 orders and 7,500 quotes.

It was purchased in 1997 from Alcoa. The plant has been in operation since 1976.

Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.

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