CoorsTek creates academy to train workers in response to labor shortage

Signs of labor shortages are everywhere. Restaurants have cut hours, warehouses are piling up produce waiting for truck drivers to deliver them, and construction projects are stretching for weeks and months longer than expected.

What if it was all about finding help? An estimated 4.3 million American workers left their jobs in August, or about 3 in every 100 workers, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The game for employers has moved away from not just recruiting candidates, but also retaining the workers they have and keeping new hires over the long term.

“We’ve been in business for a long time, 110 years. Hiring for these positions is nothing new for us. What’s new is the approach we’re taking to tackle the work challenges that everyone is experiencing right now, ”said Irma Lockridge, HR and Systems Manager at CoorsTek at Golden, who developed a program called CoorsTek Academy.

CoorsTek saw demand for its ceramic products increase as the economy rebounded, putting it in full swing in a tough job market. The company, which employs about 6,000 people worldwide, including 1,100 in Colorado, has hired 1,700 people so far this year and plans to add 400 in the last quarter.

Labor markets were tight before the pandemic and just over two years ago the company launched a more comprehensive orientation program. But the CoorsTek Academy initiative has taken to another level at Golden, and includes a building dedicated to training new hires, technical trainers and dedicated mentors or ambassadors.

Rather than going through the usual pattern of posting a job and trying to find someone who fits the job, CoorsTek recruits candidates who represent a good cultural fit, then allows them to determine the options available and say where. they land.

“Rather than hiring for the job at hand, we are hiring for skills based on the future of our workforce planning needs. We will place them as we go based on their interest levels and our skill needs, ”Lockridge said.

So far, the program has made it easier for new hires to transition, reduced revenue and increased retention, which has enabled the company to find the help it needs to meet the additional business it needs. she gets it, she said.

Matching the right people to the right positions, those they feel they had a say in the selection, should improve productivity, increase job satisfaction, and contribute to permanence or “visibility” as Lockridge describes. It is an antidote to a period that some call the “Great Resignation”.

With the help of technical trainers like Aaron Erkman, new hires visit different departments and factories, as well as an observation internship to help them get a feel for where they think they might belong. and where they might want to go in the future.

Erkman, a former teacher, started with CoorsTek in Grand Junction, moved to work in Golden, and then moved to Arkansas. He jumped at the chance to become a coach when the openings came up last spring.

“We had to be more agile. We need to be a game changer on the attrition situation, ”Erkman said. He also credits management with the fact that the earlier an investment is made with a new hire, the greater the rewards behind the scenes.

Even with the initial selection, not everyone who enters the academy finds the right position. About three in ten hires do not succeed until the end. But that’s not necessarily negative as it saves time and money for both the business and its prospects.

For the majority of recruits who complete the academy, becoming familiar with the various departments and production facilities helps them visualize a career path, Erkman said. The academy also helps them understand why their work is important.

“We give people the opportunity to see the big picture of the company, a lot of the technology that goes into our process from start to finish, the supply chain and how products improve people’s lives. They realize that they are part of something bigger, ”Erkman said.

Once new hires have landed a position they and management deem appropriate, they are assigned an ‘ambassador’ or mentor, to help them acclimatize to the job, not just master a machine or machine. particular task, but also the more subtle things like knowing where to get a cup of coffee or how to ask for time off.

Arvada resident Michael David Mestas said his colleague didn’t just show him how to use a grinder he was using. He tore it up, put it back together and asked Mestas to do the same, helping him learn it inside and out.

“I’m a practical person and wouldn’t have understood that in a book,” he said.

Mestas, who joined the company a month ago, said the extended orientation provided by the academy, including meals with other new hires, supported a strong message the company communicated on the joining a family, something that resonated with him after years in the trucking industry.

In an oilfield job, he worked 20-hour shifts with four hours of sleep. While the pay was good, the demands were grueling and the rest of his life suffered.

“They didn’t care if you wanted to go home and see your family. They just wanted this oil. That’s when I learned that you could sleep standing up, ”he said.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Michael Mestas, who attended CoorsTek Academy in Denver, is pictured on October 13, 2021.

Darryl Brewer, a Denver resident, came to CoorsTek with 20 years of manufacturing experience with six different employers. He said he knew from the first interview that this opportunity would be unlike any he had had before.

Eight people attended his interview, including long-time employees. They all stood up and greeted him as he entered the room and asked questions. After being hired, he received a welcome letter and congratulatory calls from everyone who interviewed him.

Brewer said manufacturing is a difficult area to work in, with automation and offshoring to cheaper locations a constant threat. In his previous job, the workers were constantly on edge. The factory was missing its deadlines and people were afraid of being fired and snarling with each other.

The mood was negative and exhausting and he brought the stress home, affecting his family and the time he spent with his children.

“I showed up at the training center and was greeted with open arms,” he said. “Everyone in the manufacturing was happy. They greeted each other, helped each other. I thought I was dreaming.

A big confirmation for Brewer that he made the right choice came when he helped fulfill a large order. The client came personally and thanked the workers involved, which he had never had before.

“Your job affects you in your life. It affects you everywhere. My energy level has increased. Every day I feel strong, ”he said. “I’m not the person I used to be where I was in a bad mood and didn’t want to get up to go to work.”

While CoorsTek Academy is new, the value the company, in its fifth generation of family-run management, places on its employees is part of its culture, Lockridge said.

“You win by creating the experience and supporting it, treating everyone like family. We really want people to feel that and that sense of belonging is part of everything we do, ”she said. “That’s why we’re seeing the success we’re seeing in such a tight job market. “

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