As the economy and the workforce ramps up, take a new hire under your wing

Mike Bacidore, chief editor, says new employees are coming, and they need your help.

By Mike Bacidore, chief editor

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Remember your first job in plant maintenance? Remember how excited you were to be employed by a company, doing what you were trained to do? Remember how quickly you found out how little you really knew, especially compared to the veterans who’d been living and breathing it for years, while you were in the classroom making that steep climb up the learning curve?

While those memories may have faded for some, we all know someone in that freshly educated class. But we also know those individuals who were casualties of the economic downturn and are still looking for employment.

Good things do indeed come to those who wait. While many might argue the economy’s upturn simply indicates it couldn’t go any lower, manufacturing has trended upward and brighter days must be ahead.

The September Manufacturing ISM Report On Business, issued by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), indicates the manufacturing sector is in a fast growth phase. Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in August for the 13th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 16th consecutive month.

"Manufacturing activity continued at a very positive rate in August as the PMI rose slightly when compared to July,” said Norbert Ore, chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. “In terms of month-over-month improvement, the production and employment indexes experienced the greatest gains."

While many might argue the economy’s upturn simply indicates it couldn’t go any lower, manufacturing has trended upward and brighter days must be ahead.

– Mike Bacidore, chief editor

If all indications are correct, then those overtime expenses will be converting to full-time employees soon. And with a brimming pool of candidates out there, who do you hire? While experience is a big plus, young engineers and technicians who are motivated and have been exposed to an industrial environment can be just as valuable.

When hiring reliability personnel, Alan Brewer, Nevada fluids management planner for Newmont Mining in Battle Mountain, Nev., looks at experience and whether a person is motivated to improve and change process and procedures.

“When hiring people for maintenance I don't care what their GPA was,” he explains. “I look at their experience levels. Then, through the group interview process, we assess their motivation. Motivation and ambition are far more important than brilliance.”

Overall, James “Pete” Peterson, condition-based maintenance specialist at Alabama Power, a Southern Company subsidiary in Parrish, Ala., would rather have an average student who has had some field experience and who might, at least, have some idea of what's required to be successful.

“I've seen too many ‘smart’ people show up for work and not have a clue as to what is expected or how to get along in an industrial environment,” says Peterson. “I’ve noticed that recently our new hires have much more field experience, are a bit older and know what it's like to work for a living. All of our new hires go through a six-month training class focused on operations, because that's where they’ll be placed initially and train under more experienced operations personnel. I used to tell students, when I would speak at schools, to get as much job-related experience as they can, no matter what it is, because it's going to help down the road on a resume.”

So, as we enter this new economic growth phase, remember your first job and take a new hire under your wing, whether it’s through a mandated mentoring program or just because it’s the right thing to do.

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