Brain Gain Strategies

Kiraly Invests in ‘Up-Skilling’ Workers

By Lisa Solley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — It’s been two decades since Steven Kiraly followed in his father’s manufacturing footsteps to open Kiraly Tool and Die Inc. in Youngstown. The company has seen many changes over the years, but the shrinking workforce is proving the most challenging.

Kiraly, an iron worker by trade, opened his company in 1999. Recruitment was simpler at the time, but the increased use of computers and technology in manufacturing changed things.

“There are obstacles when you grow a business. It used to be you could just hire another machinist or buy a new piece of equipment,” Steven Kiraly says. “But we were getting more inquiries and a need to generate computerized drawings that were beyond me. I was becoming my own obstacle.”

As more high school graduates chose to go to college rather than enter the skilled trades, Kiraly knew recruitment efforts had to change as the available labor force continued to shrink. 

“Manufacturers became so focused on our customers that we lost sight of good workers and bringing in younger individuals that we unintentionally created a skills gap,” he says. That is one reason Kiraly is so pleased that his children came back to help the business grow. 

Steven’s son, Kyle Kiraly, 31, now represents the third generation of manufacturers as the company controller. A few months ago, Steven’s daughter, Kayla Kiraly Paolucci, joined the operation, developing the office infrastructure and overseeing regulations and compliance for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  

Both children earned college degrees in accounting and finance and chose to return to Youngstown to be part of a technology-infused manufacturing industry. As such, they personify how the brain drain of young talent can become a brain gain.

Kyle Kiraly was introduced to the tool and die industry when he was 11 years old, pushing a broom on the floor of his father’s shop on Crescent Street. Training workers to advance with technology is something that excites him, he says, and he hopes to use new technologies to take the company from a mid-sized to a large-scale operation. “The possibilities are endless,” he says.

The company designs and manufactures stamping dies, computer-numerical-control, or CNC,  machining fixtures, conventional jigs and subcomponents for production companies.

“We’re creating manufacturing tools for a variety of other manufacturers that they use in their processes until there is a consumer end product,” Kyle Kiraly says.

In 2008, the company added offices, inspection, conference rooms and lunchrooms. In 2012, it expanded another 4,500 square feet. Two years ago, things changed for Steven Kiraly when his brother, Gary, died of cancer. Gary had owned Regal Tool & Die on Andrews Avenue in Youngstown. 

“We bought his shop from his nieces and nephews. It was better than to let it go to sale at auction or something. This kept it in the family,” Steven Kiraly says.

The Andrews Avenue location gave the company the opportunity to add advanced manufacturing equipment and new machinery at its Crescent Street location. A four-axis machining center with touch probe capabilities allows machining on multiple surfaces in one work holding, maintaining the relationship of each surface precisely and consistently. 

Jon Moore operates the four-axis machine, which uses computers to program the equipment to determine the exact position of a work piece before machining begins. Moore says the machine can handle several materials such as aluminum, copper, and steel.

The New Castle School of Trades graduate was trained through Haas Automation Inc., maker of the machine.

“I can do more programming and not have to remove the component for inspection, which saves time and set-up,” Moore says.

As the technology evolves, job skills are being redefined. Investing in a skilled workforce is a priority for Kiraly Tool and Die, whether it’s through working with educational service centers, expanding apprenticeships or working with the state. 

The company also takes advantage of the program offered through the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition that provides $3,000 in startup costs for apprenticeships.

As Kyle Kiraly explains, companies are paying someone to work 40 hours a week as they receive10 to 15 hours of training toward an industry-related credential. Workers start at a wage between $12 to $15 an hour. Paying for someone to work while being trained is an investment in the future, he says.

Chris Ruiz is the first Kiraly employee in the MVMC apprenticeship program. He is nearing the end of the training that will certify him as a journeyman and mean a bump in pay to about $25 an hour.

Ruiz is happy with his job and on his way to becoming a journeyman after three years, he says. 

Kyle Kiraly tells Lt. Gov. Jon Husted how Kiraly Tool and Die Inc. invests in workforce training.

During a visit to Kiraly Oct. 1, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the state’s new TechCred program that offers to reimburse startup costs to companies to “up-skill” employees in a variety of industries to keep up with the technology-infused economy.

Employers will be reimbursed up to $2,000 per eligible technology-focused credential in up to 20,000 short-term, industry-recognized credentials over the next two years, Husted said. Employers can earn up to $30,000 per funding round, he explained.

Kyle Kiraly told Husted about the importance of his company’s work with MVMC and with the technical schools in the region that expose younger students to skilled trades and manufacturing career paths. 

“We have to invest in up-skilling our youth,” Husted said. “Ohio is not known as a migration state to get talent. We have to build it and keep it so our youth stay put.”

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.