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Voice of the Industry.

QUESTION: As the unemployment rate remains low, foundries have had a difficult time hiring and retaining plant workers. What incentives, programs, benefits, etc. has your foundry instituted as a means of attracting workers and increasing employee retention?

"We have not had a difficult time attracting workers. We have ensured that our pay and benefits information is well publicized and known by our geographic pool of applicants, thus we generally have a continuous flow of applicants at all four of our manufacturing divisions. Retention, however, is another issue. To combat this, we have focused on the earliest stages of the employment relationship--the pre-employment process and the critical first week of employment. Beginning with the interview and continuing through the physical/drug screen, the background check and employment verification, we are constantly communicating with the candidates to ensure that they have a clear understanding of our expectations of them as a future employee. In turn, they have a clear understanding of what they can expect from us. The second step, which to date is the area in which we have made the greatest inroads, is orientation and on-the-job training. On the first day of their employment, all new employees attend an 8-hr orien tation session that includes: company history/overview, company mission statement and objectives, QS 9000 overview, pertinent work rules and employment policies, relevant safety information, products we make, and our customers and their expectations. Also included is a guided tour of the foundry and machining processes. We feel this has provided us with well-informed and well-prepared new employees. When they arrive at their respective plants, the new employees are given a second orientation by the human resources department and area supervisor. This orientation covers items specific to their plant and jobs. Finally, it is the supervisor's responsibility to ensure that new employees receive ample training time and attention (usually from a combination of the supervisor and an experienced co-worker). We also are working on a mentoring program that will expand on this concept."

Dave Lorey, human resources director, Fort Wayne Foundry Corp., Fort Wayne, Indiana

"Many manufacturing facilities of all kinds are having difficulty in attracting and retaining employees. In addition, Goldens' is a historical site from the late 1800s making it even more difficult to compete with companies that have newer, more modern facilities. As a human resource professional, more and more time is spent in public relations. You must make your company visible so that you can attract people who want to work for your company. We must market and 'sell' employment. Through partnership, our company is committed to having a voice in the education in our community at technical institutes and high schools. The workforce must be developed with the skills necessary to capture manufacturing jobs that offer stable job opportunities with good pay and benefit packages. In addition, we participate in many job fairs."

Judith J. Giddings, human resource manager, Goldens' Foundry & Machine Co., Columbus, Georgia

"The unemployment rate in the Chattanooga area is the lowest it has been in over 25 years. The challenging nature of foundry work always has made it difficult to recruit and retain good hourly production employees. We are making the foundry environment as worker-friendly as possible including more automation in certain jobs and better worker conditions throughout the foundry in regard to improved lighting, heating and cooling systems, and job rotation. We train our new employees to use their physical and mental skills and are providing more opportunities for involvement such as problem-solving teams and suggestion programs. Surveys of employees show that these efforts are improving production employee moral. We are continuing training programs to improve supervisory practices and treatment of employees with dignity and respect. We are actively recruiting former employees with good work records, which increases our retention rates with rehires. We are expanding our new employee orientation to stress that our wage and benefits package is extremely competitive and higher than most industry in our recruiting area. Last are our comprehensive training processes that are broken into three major areas: technical, administrative and teamwork. Although all three areas are important, the teamwork and interpersonal skills are emphasized to increase the success in retaining new employees and improving our operations."

Jack Matens, human resources and training manager, Broad Street plants, Wheland Foundry (North American Royalties, Inc.), Chattanooga, Tennessee

"Kurdziel Iron of Rothbury (KIR) began losing its skilled trade employees to other local manufacturing companies during 1998. At the same time, it was unable to attract the necessary talent to refill these vacancies. To correct the problem, a significant wage increase for KIR's two skilled trade classifications was proposed during contract negotiations in late 1998. The resulting agreement in June of 1999 proved a first year wage increase of 21% for maintenance and pattern shop employees as compared to a 2.7% first year overall wage increase. This increase in skilled trade wages placed KIR's rates slightly above the area industry average. The increased wage rates allowed KIR to quickly refill its vacant positions with a higher level of talent than was lost in 1998. It became clear that competitive wages are necessary to attract those with the skills needed to compete in today's marketplace."

Steve Wenk, vice president of human resources, Kurdziel Industries, Inc., Muskegon, Michigan
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Foundry Society, Inc.
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Article Details
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Author:Matens, Jack
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:878
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