Making the decision to employ veterans may seem like a shot in the dark, but it could actually be the best hiring decision you will ever make as a manufacturing leader. Military veterans not only have the tangible leadership skills you need to grow and succeed in your business, but they also bring a rich set of attributes and experiences to the table.
Making the transition from military life to a new, civilian career can be intimidating, however! Helping veterans thrive in their post-military chapters is what brought Andrea Biwer (Executive Director of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce) and Marne Deithorn (Director of Human Resources at the Des Plaines Rivers Casino) together to form the Veteran Boot Camp.
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Andrea knew there was a shortage in the manufacturing workforce, but she didn’t see it as an opportunity for veterans until she watched her son and his friends come back from their service in the marines and have trouble finding work. Joining with Marne (a veteran herself!) at the Rivers Casino, the two women helped lead the charge in founding the Veterans Back to Work Boot Camp. The ten-week program is built to help and empower veterans who have given so much to our country and to fill job opportunities within various industries - including manufacturing!
Over 250 veterans have applied to the boot camp since it began. 20 were chosen out of 85 applications for this past year’s program. While there are no set criteria for being accepted, Andrea and Marne explain that they painstakingly go through each application, looking for those they believe will most benefit from the experience and be committed to the learning opportunity. Those that aren’t accepted are still given access to the job fair put on by the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce.
Mentors come alongside the veterans, sharing their own mistakes and experiences. Topics such as Who are You?, Persona, and Introversion vs. Extroversion are covered, as well as interviewing skills and resume building. Marne explains that in the military, everyone is told exactly what to do - all the time. Veterans are used to a life where they are told what to wear, where to move, and what they should do in their job. Suddenly living in a world without constant direction can be daunting. The Boot Camp endeavors to help veterans find themselves again after identifying themselves as “the military” for so long.
Andrea and Marne share that the veterans who leave the program are filled with newfound confidence and strength in their personal capabilities. The practical experiences they gain from the program, such as participation in networking events and community service projects, help give them a sense of purpose outside of the military. One of the greatest strengths of veterans is their desire for purpose - to give to something bigger than themselves. Veterans have so much to offer, and their military training and experiences have proven them to be men and women of integrity, loyalty, character, and principle. They know how to lead under pressure and how to build up those around them to greater achievements. They know how to make decisions. When you employ veterans, you aren’t just utilizing their skill-set, you are investing in the future.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceived misgivings surrounding employing veterans. Firstly, veterans aren’t just line employees. Because of their military experience, they are ready for leadership positions at the get-go. While they may need to learn the details of a specific job, they already have the tangible leadership skills needed to succeed (know yourself, know your troops, and know your mission).
Secondly, not every veteran has PTSD. Andrea and Marne warn against placing veterans inside a box of mental disorders. “That negative stigma is absolutely ridiculous,” they say. Everyone has something they struggle with, and not only military members have PTSD. If you find that one of your employed veterans has some type of disorder, help them find the encouragement and aid they need.
Thirdly, not all homeless veterans have a debilitating habit that brought them to that condition. Again, everyone has struggles. Veterans are human too, and they deserve a chance. To learn more about the ways you can help give back to military veterans while also growing your business, listen to the episode!
Training to achieve top credentials has long been a goal of many in the Metal Working Nation, but what about training for performance? Montez King, Executive Director of NIMS, unpacks the power of training machinists to perform at their ultimate best. How do you measure performance? Listen to the episode to find out!
Montez grew up on the rough side of the tracks in Baltimore - eager to pursue something bigger than himself when he grew up. Encouraged by a high school instructor to pursue machining, Montez found himself learning the tricks of the trade in his high school machine shop. Over the years in various manufacturing jobs, Montez endeavored to find solutions to the issues he found riddling the manufacturing industry - namely, the habit of companies to reward their employees for hoarding their expertise. As he climbed the industry ladder, Montez encouraged a paradigm shift towards a community rich in growth, teaching, and learning.
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When Montez became the executive director at NIMS, he laid out a new mission for the organization - to train from the end. Manufacturers are always learning. Technology continues to grow at a rate that demands elite performance and an insatiable desire to learn. Montez explains that simply having a list of credentials doesn’t cut it anymore in an industry where performance equals compensation. Employers are coming up against unique problems every day that require quick and expert solutions. Performance has become the new measuring stick.
NIMS helps companies train for performance with specific goals and standards in mind. When measuring performance, they determine whether or not an individual can operate within the responsibilities of their job description while drawing upon the competencies associated with that job. The training isn’t just for the sake of training. It’s training with a specific performance goal in mind.
Manufacturing leaders know that they can’t wander aimlessly when trying to improve their teams. There needs to be a goal - a standard of achievement. NIMS takes this need for standards and applies it to their performance measurement, creating training methods that enable the trainee to meet the performance goals of the employer. Trainees leave with the ability to make an analysis of the task at hand and to apply their expertise based upon their best judgment of the tools, time, and needs within their environment.
Montez makes it clear that standards should not be held above performance. The answer to the employer’s needs is the competent and consistent performance of the trained individual. Credentials are awarded to individuals who complete the training and meet the performance standards so that the trainee is recognized for their hard work, while also meeting the needs of the employer. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
In order to make the performance training at NIMS a true win-win, Montez has helped create a stakeholder environment in his company’s training methods. Using the image of three bars, each one stands for a stakeholder in the training: the employer, the trainer, and the trainee. Everyone is reaching for the same goal, and each one is held accountable for their part in the deal. Validation is achieved when the trainee can draw upon the competencies they have learned and can successfully apply them to the environment that their employer has defined for them. The employer is responsible for establishing the standards, the trainer is responsible for creating a training method that builds performance and skill, and the trainee is responsible for mastering the craft and competence in applying knowledge to real-life situations. All three bars have to measure up. When one falls short - they all fall short.
To Montez, performance measurement is preventative maintenance! In order to push the Metal Working Nation to the next level, NIMS will be hosting a one-of-a-kind challenge at the IMTS 2020 trade show. The goal will be to measure the performance of a team, since teamwork is such a vital part of the manufacturing industry. This PM will require multiple skill-sets to come together to design, create, and produce a task that will then be voted upon by the IMTS crowd. In accordance with the NIMS training methodology, the competition will include standards, inspections, and requirements modeled after real-life challenges. What’s the reward? You’ll have to find out at IMTS 2020!
Content marketing provides an opportunity to expand your business and to offer something of value to the manufacturing community around the world. Chris Fox, the creative director at MakingChips, shares why every manufacturing leader should be investing in the development of a strong and value-driven content marketing strategy. It’s all about building your online presence as a company and growing your audience.
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Content marketing has grown from only a couple of usable platforms to several powerful mediums for sharing what your business offers - from products to educational knowledge. Blogging, social media, and YouTube are all avenues for content marketing. The goal is to establish the presence of your business and brand, while also meeting the needs of the Metal Working Nation. Chris explains that learning and teaching are things that every machinist and manufacturing leader can benefit from. Every manufacturing business has expertise and wisdom to share with the manufacturing community. Don’t be afraid to begin documenting the story of your company as you create, make mistakes, and overcome obstacles. Your knowledge can easily become rich building material for content marketing!
Your audience craves and needs original, authentic content to help them accomplish their work at their very best. Being natural in your content marketing is vital. People easily see through facades and glossy content. Be honest and provide real solutions to real problems through your content marketing. If you want your audience to invest their time in watching your videos, reading your blog, or re-tweeting your twitter post, then you need to provide a valuable ROI.
Chris encourages listeners to put aside the notion of proprietary secrets. The goal is to grow as a manufacturing community - while also building your reputation as a brand. Value-driven content marketing can help establish your reputation as a trustworthy source for knowledge and product.
Vlogging is blogging in a video format - most often through YouTube. The true value in a blog comes from the individuals in your business. Content marketing doesn’t have to be formal or impressively polished. Being real is vital, and showcasing the talent and knowledge of individual team members can help establish credibility with your audience.
Chris explains how to navigate the nuances of vlogging as a manufacturing company. Being honest with the titles of your videos is key. If your title claims to answer a question, make sure that the video actually answers it. Google is now smart enough to read the transcript of your video and match it with the title. If those two factors don’t match up, Google is less likely to promote your video.
The length of your videos should be tailored to the needs of your audience. If it takes an hour to demonstrate the solution to a real problem, then your video should be an hour long. If it only takes three minutes, then only create three minutes. Lots of ads and fluff in your videos will turn your audience away and detract from your credibility. Above all, be honest and be concise.
The value in content marketing is derived from the desire to give without thought of receiving anything in return. Take the time to understand what your customers, partners, and team members need. Know what platforms they use and what types of mediums they are most likely to engage with. While you may not be able to kick off a content marketing strategy that utilizes YouTube, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Facebook all at once, you can certainly start with one. Don’t have expensive camera equipment to film? Use your phone! Bring in the team and refer to their feedback when developing material. Companies aren’t people, but they are made up of people. Make sure that you are providing excellent content by ensuring that you are not only promoting your brand but also equipping and inspiring.
Choosing a new career path or education route can be intimidating, but a manufacturing career may just provide the perfect solution! Sarah Wierman shares her inspiring story and helpful insights into joining the manufacturing industry and how being willing to learn and ask questions can open up new and exciting opportunities. Be sure to listen to the episode for a unique look into changing career paths and learning the ropes of manufacturing from a beginner’s perspective.
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Working on obtaining her bachelor’s degree in deaf studies, Sarah tried a job in sign language and teaching but found that she hated it. She decided to take a break from her education and took a job in sales at Raptor Workholding on the recommendation of a friend. Little did she know that she would soon fall in love with the manufacturing industry and find her new passion and calling.
The initial appeal in a sales job was the travel opportunities. Sarah soon discovered that manufacturing was more than producing and delivering products. It was creativity and masterful workmanship created to meet an incredibly wide spectrum of needs - from replacing knees to providing building supplies. Inspired, Sarah took it upon herself to learn as much as she could about the industry and asked questions of everyone she met. “I never stopped talking to people,” she shares. Vendor shows and visiting other shops to sell live tooling afforded her plenty of opportunities to deepen her knowledge of machining.
When Sarah first began her job as a sales rep at Raptor, she didn’t even know what a CNC machine was. After a year of intense learning and diving into the new world of manufacturing, she realized that she wanted to stay in the industry long-term. Her eagerness to learn opened new doors, and she took a job as the regional manager at MD Tooling. “Your lack of experience in the industry doesn’t make you ignorant,” she says. “It makes you eager.” If you find that you truly want to be a part of the manufacturing industry, then you need to be willing to take on the responsibility of learning - and learning well. Listen to the episode to learn more about why Sarah fell in love with machining and why she decided to pursue a manufacturing career.
Even though there are many women in the manufacturing industry, it still isn’t common. Sarah shares her experiences entering into and growing in an industry that is still considered a man’s world. “It is what you make of it,” she says. Even though some of the people she worked with initially found her presence odd, there was never any hostility or opposition. Once her fellow workers discovered that Sarah was willing to learn and put her best foot forward in every job and customer encounter, they embraced her unique perspectives and place within the team.
Sarah shares that while it can be intimidating entering a workforce made up almost entirely of men as a young woman, the important thing to focus on is the experience that you are offering customers and your teammates. View obstacles as challenges and find ways to overcome them. It’s about being collaborative and willing to find the solution and solve the problems that arise. Everyone has something unique to offer, and being confident in one’s perspective - while also acting and speaking in humility - will take you farther than you ever thought possible.
Learning about a new career opportunity can be daunting. Sarah shares some tips for exploring the manufacturing industry as a new career. Mentors can be invaluable in helping you navigate how to get started, who to talk to, and how to put your best foot forward. Investing in relationships should be a key component of your entire career, but especially when starting out. You will always need others to help you and provide a place for you to seek advice. Never stop asking questions and making room for edifying voices in your life.
Social media isn’t just a business marketing tool. It can be a learning tool for exploring new career paths as well! Sarah explains how she began an Instagram page for Raptor Workholding and soon discovered other manufacturing-related pages from which she learned an invaluable amount of insight and skill. Don’t be intimidated by having to learn a new industry. Put yourself out there. Use social media to learn more about the culture and the skills required. Ask questions and make it fun! Manufacturing isn’t just about the products. It’s about the people, meeting the needs of those across the nation and the world, and creating something beautiful out of ordinary hunks of metal.