TANNER — Pennsylvania-based Carpenter Technology is in the process of hiring for its metal alloy manufacturing plant in Limestone County.
Jim America, of Carpenter's human resources division, spoke to The Decatur Daily about what companies look for in workers, what education he recommends for young people and if there is any hope for people looking for a career change.
Question: What job types are particularly strong at Carpenter now? What education would you recommend for someone who will be entering the workforce in a few years?
Answer: Hiring in technical related fields, jobs like engineers, are at a premium. With a degree like engineering, someone could walk into Carpenter and many other companies in Decatur and be eligible for a job. We're in a talent war.
There are strong jobs in skill trades and skill crafts. An electrical background with two years in college in a field like industrial electronics can land people in highly skilled and relatively good-paying jobs.
People familiar with programmable logic controllers, human/machine interface and computer-based manufacturing are all preferable hires.
The sweet spot at the Limestone facility is a degree in metallurgy or some material science.
Q: What are qualities Carpenter and companies like it look for in all employees, regardless of education or experience?
A: The big thing, especially at the Limestone facility, is someone who is flexible. We need a multitasker, someone who can learn a lot of different things and have a lot of different jobs.
We need someone who doesn't mind working in a team environment. We need someone who isn't just thinking about their job but how they can help their co-workers. When you go to Starbucks, one person will pour coffee, but they also do different things like help customers at the window. We need that spirit in manufacturing.
Q: If someone wants to make a major career change from a different field to something that Carpenter offers, would that be possible? Would any of their previous experience or education be of any help at all?
A: We're considering doing a hiring fair because a lot of people have asked us that question, especially teachers.
For production jobs, there is pre-employment training that everybody has to go through.
Our preference is somebody who has worked in a hard-hat environment. But even if you don't have the education or experience we prefer, you could have all those attributes that we look for in an employee, like flexibility and teamwork, and maybe have a shot at a job. We have one guy up for a trainer job who is finishing up his Ph.D. in education, and we liked him. But the offer is also going to two people who have the background we're looking for.
Q: What's going on in the hiring process for the Limestone County facility?
A: Right now we have 26 people at Limestone. By the end of June, I want to have 50 people hired. Thirteen will be maintenance, around 10 will be production and the balance will be salaried employees like engineers, chemists and managers.
Right now we're interviewing electronic technicians and mechanical technicians, which can have a base pay of $50,000-$55,000. Whenever someone turns in a resume or application, we turn them in to Alabama Industrial Development Training. We will select candidates this month to train at the Alabama Robotics Technology Park, then decide who will be offered a job. We give candidates a rating based on their performance. We don't determine hiring on a single point.
The toughest place to hire is in our skilled worker jobs, things like welders and electronic technicians. A lot of young people aren't majoring in these fields and aren't aware that they are high-paying jobs. We're considering partnering with the Limestone County Career Technical Center for programs like summer internships to bring some young people in. If we can form a relationship when they are in 11th grade, we can do a direct hire when they turn 18. But that's a long-term project that we should be able to do in a couple of years. Right now we're focusing on hiring for the startup, and I have to have experienced people for that.
Ben Montgomery can be reached at 256-340-2445 and email@example.com.
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