continuous improvement Archives - Intertech Plastics

The Potential of Apprenticeship

Noel

CEO and Founder of Intertech Plastics, Noel Ginsburg

Millions of youth find themselves out of school and out of work, yet have an insatiable urge to find and  fulfill their potential. Conversely, there are thousands of employers struggling to fill millions of jobs. In a recent podcast done by the US Chamber of Commerce, our CEO here at Intertech, Noel Ginsburg, and the Chief Community Officer at Starbucks discuss how hiring youth is a valuable investment in your business’ future that will keep our nation happily employed.

Starting out as a college class project, Noel Ginsburg never expected his plastic mold manufacturing  company to have problems such as finding employees; yet, after 35 years in opperation, Intertech Plastics is facing that exact struggle. As the years have passed, intertech has grown to a scale where to continuing to expand would require more employees with specific skills such as making a mold. Unfortunately some of these skills are not developed without years of training. This is a struggle faced by many companies with great career opportunities and nobody to fill them. Only 25% of Americans obtain a four year degree. Now how many do you think are youth? Now, how many of those youth with four year college degrees represent our whole working population? The 25% already seems low without adding on those filters, so what about the other 75% of the population? A college degree should be a equalizer, not an inhibitor, and companies like Starbucks and Intertech are realizing their role in making that belief a reality.

Starbucks CCO, Blair Taylor

Starbucks CCO, Blair Taylor

The Podcast starts with Chief Community Officer of Starbucks, Blair Taylor, explaining his initiatives with the Starbucks 100,000 opportunities program. This program is meant to utilize community leaders from large to small businesses to stimulate career opportunities for American youth. The kick-off for this program has already shown promise for the future. “We want to make sure that we achieve the 3 wins.” Says Blair, referring to his standards of success; the people win by gaining career opportunity, society wins because it is hard at work and has a low unemployment rate and third, possibly the most important, key is to insure the business gains more than it gives. While this is the right thing to do, it is even more so the smart thing to do. Blair describes a company he helped get youth employees started at with his program and the company’s CEO reported that not only were these some of the best employees he has ever hired, but some of the most innovative. Blair finds that youth employees are immersed in a different world and have potential to bring new ideas to companies and they are also excited to build a career and feel themselves playing a role in a larger community. Youth of today want exactly what humanity has always wanted, fulfillment and purpose in their work, something to take pride in; These youth have the raw skills and “fire in their belly” that can be harnessed to take on the millions of unfulfilled careers throughout our country.

A school tour facilitated by on of our production employees

A school tour facilitated by on of our production employees

CEO of Intertech Plastics, Noel Ginsburg, is an avid advocate for youth employment and creating career opportunities for people with nontraditional paths. Noel gets an opportunity to explain how Intertech has been involved in some form of youth employment program for at least 25 of its 35 years in operation. Intertech runs internship programs in the summer that gives college students a mentor in one of our departments who they work for throughout the program and then are required to present to the management team at the end of the program so recap what they have learned and how they have grown. This summer one of the interns was a high school student from one of the public schools in Denver who would come in four times a week to work with us. He got to spend time in our quality lab learning how to use vision systems and high precision systems we use on a day to day basis. Not only has he been here over the summer, but he will be here throughout the school year continuing his program after school. This gives him a foot ahead other students because this has direct real world applications, benefits, and even cons that will provide useful experience for a lifetime. Also, Noel describes our interactive school visits hosted throughout the year to give students focusing on manufacturing an opportunity to be immersed in a real plant and learn about the different important roles at Intertech. On a community level, Noel is working to develop programs like ours in advanced manufacturing, informational technology, health care, and banking. Noel explains that he has chosen these fields to match a model set in Switzerland. Switzerland primarily uses apprenticeships to employ and train the country. This model has shown extremely positive results, Noel reports the nations unemployment at barely 2.4 percent where the US is between 12 and 14 percent.

Clearly there are huge steps being taken to combat unemployment as well as utilizing the innovation of today’s youth. By training young people who are out of school and out of work, a company can essentially build their own employee. Apprenticeships not only familiarize a person with specific skill sets but can tailor those skill sets to be directly useful in the desired field, rather than generally studying one topic for sometimes over four years. Education will always be indispensable; and thanks to people like Blair Taylor and Noel Ginsburg, there are becoming more ways of obtaining it.

To hear Podcast click above.

To hear Podcast click above.

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Find out more on the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative by clicking above.

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See the U.S. blog post about the podcast by clicking above.

LEARNING ABOUT OURSELVES, FROM OTHERS

Business, by nature, is competitive. Often we are so competitive we won’t take the opportunity to learn from each other. Regardless of your business, but particularly in manufacturing, most of the tools used to get the job done are the same from company to company. It’s not what gets the job done that matters, it’s who gets the job done, MAPP_logoso why not invite other businesses over; why not learn from someone who has had the same problems. Fortunately, Intertech was able to overcome that stigma. Last week we had the great fortune of hosting 30 members of the Manufacturing Association of Plastics Processors (MAPP) for a tour. This was not just any tour but rather a two-way learning experience. Plastics processors from across the country came to Intertech Plastics to learn about how we align strategic planning from the top down, use visual management tools to understand and improve our Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), and work with our community, not just to do good, but to build our talent pipeline.

Admittedly, we were a bit nervous and intimidated by some of the larger manufacturers in the East so we spent a good week scrubbing the plant clean before their arrival. The reality is, we really didn’t need to clean more than we do already. We worried about cleaning the carpets in the office, washing the windows outside, repainting the lines on the floor, and other light cosmetic improvements. What we found out during our tour was that our cleanliness was at the bottom of the list of things that were impressive. Instead, our strategic management, our lean efforts (and successes), our workforce development, and most importantly our corporate culture and leadership are what impressed our guests.

Noel presents Intertech's workforce development initiatives to 30 members of MAPP.

Noel presents Intertech’s workforce development initiatives to 30 members of MAPP.

This is not to say we were perfect. The purpose of the tour is not just to show off, but rather to teach and learn. Visitors were broken off into 5 groups and then given a red card and a green card.   On the green card they wrote about all the great things mentioned previously and on the red card they wrote suggestions of what we can do better. That second part was especially helpful, and is why it’s so important to get past the competitiveness and learn from each other. Continuous improvement is one of the core values at Intertech and this was an excellent exercise to support our efforts. It’s hard to see where we can improve without some external input, which is why are a part of such a great organization like MAPP who facilitated the experience. We have already started to implement some of their suggestions and know we will be an even better manufacturer because of their outside perspective. Despite all of the helpful suggestions, perhaps the most valuable benefit to come out of the tour was the self-realization that we have a great team and are a great manufacturer. I heard one co-worker say, “You know what? I’m proud of us.” That pride in what we do is what makes us stand out, and I’m sure our customers agree.