YOUNGSTOWN – Learning at a young age what it means to work is one of the best ways to prepare for a career in manufacturing.
That was a key takeaway from the Brain Gain Navigators webinar featuring Hynes Industries President and CEO Rick Organ and plant manager Jeremy Gurski. During the live webinar April 13, Organ and Gurski discussed career paths in manufacturing with participating students and mentors. They also answered questions.
Whether it’s getting a summer job or helping their parents around the house, kids can develop the work ethic needed for a successful manufacturing career, they said.
Organ and Gurski both delivered The Vindicator when they were young. It was Organ’s first job when he was 12 years old, he said. As he got older, Organ spent his summers in a shop, helping his dad who was a general contractor in Youngstown. He also worked at a local Sparkle Market.
“Wherever you go and whatever you’ve done, I think that those experiences teach you responsibility,” Organ told the students. “They teach you that you need to be at a place on time. They teach you how to respect one another and respect the environment that you’re in.”
Gurski agreed. By delivering The Vindicator, he learned responsibility: “You’ve got to get up on a Saturday morning,” he said. He also gained shop experience by helping his dad, who owned a steel business in the city.
“I can remember picking up banding and sweeping the floor and things like that,” Gurski said.
Initially, Gurski didn’t care for the work. As a college student studying elementary education, he aspired to be a teacher. As he got older, however, he came to enjoy the hands-on work that comes with a career in manufacturing.
Organ and Gurski agree those early work experiences help individuals to develop what’s most important to work in a production position: attitude and aptitude.
Having a general aptitude and ability to learn is necessary for any job, Having a good attitude allows individuals to be open to suggestions on how to do the work, Gurski said. This leads to maintaining good attendance and dependability, he said.
Individuals who demonstrate good attitude and aptitude can learn the practical skills that they may not already possess when starting a job in manufacturing, Organ added.
“We’re going to teach you those,” he said. “The attitude is like speed in an athlete. If you’ve got speed, we can teach you the rest. And aptitude, if you’re willing to learn and you’re willing to let other people teach you and be patient … and you’re dependable. The soft skills – those are critically important to us.”
Schooling is important as well, they said. With the equipment that manufacturers use and the many measurements workers are required to make daily, math is critical to a successful manufacturing career.
Comprehension is also important, Organ noted. English skills, both written and verbal, as well as general communication skills are very important on the plant floor.
Being able to clearly and effectively communicate when a mistake happens is an important part of the quality assurance procedure of a company, as well as safety, Gurski said.
“The best thing to do is put it out there and get a team of people to come up with a solution. Potentially let the customer know there’s an issue,” Gurski said. “Honesty is the best policy in that case. The more people involved help you get a better solution.”
Safety was a big concern with some students who participated in the live webinar. During a feedback session with The Business Journal, students from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Youngstown indicated that the possibility of getting injured at work was a reason they hadn’t considered a career in manufacturing.
“You could probably get hurt without the right tools and everything, without the right equipment,” said Christopher Wynn, a freshman at Mooney High School.
Wynn aspires to work in video game development. And while he isn’t interested in manufacturing, he recognizes that those types of jobs pay well and provide good benefits, he said.
Without proper training, someone can get “hurt or injured” by using manufacturing equipment, added Dylan Clark, a seventh-grader at Youngstown Community School. Clark aspires to be a doctor.
While the work can get a little dirty, Linda Farina said she has never felt unsafe. Farina has worked at Hynes for nearly 25 years and was interviewed by The Business Journal during the tour of Hynes.
“I’m very cautious about it. And they provide [personal protective equipment],” she said.
In addition to ensuring worker safety, good communication is important from a production perspective, Organ said. If a mistake is made, it’s likely that someone else made it too, which lets supervisors know something is flawed in the system that needs to be corrected.
Working as a team to solve a problem or correct an issue is one of the things that makes manufacturing such an enjoyable job, Organ said.
“We know we’re here to help one another. We have each other’s backs,” he said. “We go to war for each other each and every day. And that’s what gets me up in the morning.”
Hynes runs a three-shift operation. As its busy season begins, there will be opportunities to work overtime.
Workers clock in and get their temperatures checked per COVID-19 regulations before changing into work clothes in on-site locker rooms. This allows them to change back into clean clothes before they leave for the day,.
Some operators run the same mill every day while others might run a variety of equipment, he said. “They could be in five, six different spots through the day,” Gurski said.
Employees at Hynes have the opportunity to advance. Three of the company’s four supervisors were promoted from within, starting on the floor as operators, Gurski said. That’s a benefit to workers, he said, because they know if they have a question, they’ll get an answer from someone who has done the job.
“They can identify issues quicker. They know exactly what people are talking about. They know the struggle,” he said.
As Hynes expands and its workforce reaches retirement age, there will be plenty of opportunities for the next generation to seek employment.
“We certainly intend to be here another 100 years,” Organ said.
“We understand that we are going through a transition now. We’ve got people who are retiring and we need to bring on the next generation of workers.”
Pictured: Christopher Wynn is a club member who attended the feedback session.