Meet Angela Dine, President & CEO of St. Marys Foundry, a family owned business located in St. Marys, Ohio. In the current business climate, where downsizing is all too common among manufacturing companies, Dine is taking the company in the opposite direction. She believes in investing in and training her staff, especially in times of crisis. THORS spoke with this inspiring leader to gain insight into her approach to training.
Growing up around a foundry
Angela Dine has been around foundries her entire life. She is a fourth generation leader of St. Marys Foundry. Talking about her background, she said “I went to school to be a pharmacist but as my father aged, he asked if I was interested in coming back. So I did.” Prior to her return to the foundry, she spent many of her summers throughout college working in the foundry, primarily in the lab. Dine admits to always being passionate about metallurgy and has fond childhood memories of her sisters working on core making. It was with happiness that she returned to the family business after her time as a pharmacist.
The bigger picture
Dine has been with St. Marys for sixteen years. In 2005, she became its president. “The biggest change that I can speak for is reinvesting in the plant and in the people, in a very concerted, planned way.” Upon her arrival back to St. Marys Foundry she saw an experienced workforce, but a lack of succession to take St. Marys into the future. With the median foundry employee age at 46.7 years¹ in the United States, a concentrated effort had to be made to bridge the generation gap.
“Right now our median workforce age is in the thirties,” mentioned Dine. Her organization is proud of the fact that more people are staying and that their turnover is dropping. “As you reinvest in people, especially younger people, they want to know why they're doing what they're doing and they understand their role in the bigger picture. That's what we're trying to help them to see: their role in the bigger picture.”
The training scene
She believes St. Marys has the perfect mix for training because her older employees want to pass on their knowledge to the younger generation. “THORS is just a great tool to train [a workforce] in a more formal way and you can document it that way too. Once people get into the foundry and start understanding their role, it seems like it helps. I feel like we get to a certain sweet spot which is where we're at right now, where we don't need to hire as many [people] because more people are staying,” said Dine.
The two counties where the foundry is located have a reported 2.3-2.7% unemployment rate. That makes it harder for St. Marys to find skilled and knowledgeable employees since this statistic indidcates that the counties are experiencing a labor shortage. “We have to work harder than other companies do to get people, so once we get people, we try harder to keep them.”
“We just recently changed the entire way we hire, orient, and train people and a lot of that was because we were bringing in THORS and it provided this spark to blow up the traditional methods and start over.” The employees at St. Marys are brought in after multiple interviews and then they participate in a multi-day orientation. They are assigned both a trainer and a mentor. The former is more for the training of their jobs and the latter help answer general questions. New hires spend the first two weeks of training on first shift with the more experienced people.
“Once we keep somebody for six months, they almost always stay. And I think that has a lot to do with the learning curve. If they're willing to stay that long then they really understand their role in the big picture and they understand the different functions within their department,” said Dine. She adds that even though these jobs might appear simplistic, they are actually quite complex as they have a lot of layers to them and involve learning a large amount of information. “I usually don't consider a person fully developed in the foundry for a long time, but I figure if they make it six months, they've got a pretty good understanding [of the basics].”
The school at St. Marys
St. Marys recently launched a school at their facility that helps train employees at every level. “There is a really good morale boost by just starting the training school and by knowing that training was going to be available.” St. Marys has been inching towards a more comprehensive approach to training for a long time. They have seen a positive change in the departments where the new training initiatives are in full swing. Retention and output have both been improving since St. Marys innovated their training methods.
¹ "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey." United State Department of Labor. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 29 Jan. 2016. http://www.bls.gov/cps/industry_age.htm
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