The GRS Training Center underwent a major expansion in 2019. What was the reason for this expansion?
The old training center was fantastic, but it was rapidly becoming too small for our growing needs. To meet the changing demands from the market it was necessary to increase the studio space. Each engraving studio was expanded by a third, and a larger third classroom was added — it is dedicated to fabrication, smithing, stone setting, and other creative processes that were impossible to accomplish in the previous space. Now, we can better meet the demand and offer more new and challenging classes for many years to come.
What was the planning process like with the new building?
One word — exciting!
The entire process was a lot of fun and challenging. Fun because we were able to bring to life so many ideas we’ve been talking about for the past five-seven years. It was challenging because not every idea is feasible in a multi-functional space. I learned a ton and I had a blast doing it.
Why a third classroom? What needs does it meet?
The third classroom opens the door to so many new opportunities. Most importantly, our ability to facilitate a wide range of project-style classes. This new space allows our instructors to expand beyond just engraving and stone setting and incorporate more creative processes into the project, like soldering, sawing, forming, polishing, fabricating, etching, etc. Every process has its place in the new space. No more portable vent hood hooked up to the window. No more pickle pots in the kitchen. No more polishing in the break room. Everything can be done in the same space with the instructor available.
Since there are now three classrooms, will we be seeing three classes taking place at the same time in the future?
This question brings me a lot of anxiety. Yes, we will absolutely offer three classes at the same time…someday. We are still working out the logistics, but it will happen. As I grow more accustomed to the idea, I am starting to realize all the great benefits.
What is your favorite feature of the new TC?
My favorite feature may not even be a feature — space. We have space to grow. Space to move. Space to be creative. Space to expand. Space for people to learn without limitations. The new studio has some great bells and whistles that customers will appreciate, but I am most excited about the tremendous amount space!! Ask me again in 5 years and that may change…
What makes the GRSTC the best place to learn?
- No interruptions
(customers, kids, family, boss, etc.)
- Project-based classes
- Five TVs to watch as the instructor demonstrates
- Twelve students asking questions and offering a different perspective
- Fully equipped benches, no sharing tools
- With the manufacturing done on-site, the students have access to the full range of all GRS tools
- Instructors for the GRSTC come from a variety of backgrounds and have an extreme willingness to share. Every instructor is a professional engraver/stonesetter and can provide guidance directly related to the market and current trends.
- Small town hospitality from the surrounding community
- World-class customer service
- On-site support staff
- Twenty+ years of GRSTC operation — highly experienced staff
- Instructors average over fifteen years of teaching experience and much, much more in professional experience
- The GRSTC Family — those who have taken a class will understand what this means
So how much bigger is the new Training Center?
The old TC could basically fit in the breakroom of the new one!
How do you decide what classes to offer?
Classes are decided by customer feedback, market demand, instructor input, and current popular trends.
Where do ideas for new classes come from?
This is a group effort with different origins. We rely on instructor feedback and student suggestions for new class ideas. Often, an instructor will come to us with a commissioned project they have been working on and we figure out a way to turn that into a class. The sales and marketing teams have been known to propose some really great ideas too.
How do you schedule those classes?
This is the biggest challenge of my year. Several factors are considered before even putting pencil to paper. Holidays, tradeshows, vacations, hotel availability, etc. — they all come into play when putting it together. We avoid scheduling a stone setting or jewelry-related class in October or November because of the Christmas prep. Gun engraving classes shouldn’t interfere with the big gun shows. And western-themed (bright cut) classes are scheduled around calving season and harvest. There’s no way to accommodate everybody, but we do our best.
How is the curriculum for each class determined?
The curriculum is based on feedback from the instructor. I present the idea to the instructor and we work together to establish an overall curriculum and a list of course objectives to cover. Communication is very important. I’m extremely lucky to work with such a great group of professionals that take a simple idea and turn it into something so incredible!
Is the curriculum in every Basic Class from every instructor the same or are there differences?
The curriculum is the same, but the delivery method is often different depending on the background of the instructor. Every class concentrates on the same basic principles for stone setting or engraving. The laser practice plates, or practice rings, might be different, but the concepts are the same. Regardless if you come for a Basic Gun Class, a Basic Western Class, or a Basic Stone setting class, the goal remains the same — we aim to provide a positive learning experience and create a firm foundation of skills. How the individual applies the skills is up to them.
Student work, from left to right: (Gun Engraving) Jordan Kasallis, (Jewelry Engraving) Andrew Dorman, and (Basic Metal Engraving) Bill Burke.
What is your favorite thing about working for Glendo/GRS?
I love the family atmosphere that comes with a small company like Glendo. A team of 54 people busts their humps daily to manufacture, sell, and ship products to over 120 countries worldwide. I am incredibly proud to be a part of something so great!
Is there an advantage to having the GRSTC in Kansas?
Being centrally located provides many benefits to our students. Most students in the United States are within reasonable driving distance. And our proximity to two major airports makes for an easy flight — most flights originating in the US and arriving in Kansas City or Wichita are less than three hours. The Midwest hospitality and support provided by the Emporia community is what keeps people coming back year after year. The barbecue is pretty darn good, too!
Why don’t you have classes year-round?
We host students from all over the world and from many different climates. The weather in Kansas between November and March can be very unpredictable. It’s not uncommon to experience a severe ice storm followed by hours of snow which makes travel extremely difficult and dangerous.
What is one thing that even a student that has been here many times might not know about the GRSTC?
The space that currently serves as our Training Center is the original site of the machine shop and production floor for Glendo. The production floor and machine shop were relocated many years ago and that space served as offices until 2005. Then, in 2005, after several years of being held one mile down the road, the training center was moved back on-site to the current location. And once again, the production floor, the business office, and the Training Center were back together under one roof.
After fifteen years, what is your greatest memory of the Training Center?
Trying to pinpoint only one memory is impossible, almost like asking me which of my children is my favorite. I have many fond memories, but I can’t narrow it down to just one. So many wonderful relationships have developed inside these walls. I enjoy watching those bonds grow stronger each year as they return for more classes. That is special.