Amid a national skilled labor crisis, manufacturers must be creative to keep their shop floors staffed. The number of employees entering the manufacturing workforce is not keeping pace with the rate of employee retirement. Automation and robotics help scale labor, but hiring a skilled team member remains invaluable to most manufacturers.
Throughout Anchor Harvey’s 100-yr history, we have witnessed a shift in the quality and quantity of applicants. Gone are the days of posting a Now Hiring sign in the window and sorting through a stack of qualified applicants. As education trends toward technology, high schools are offering fewer hands-on shop classes, such as metalworking, or machining. Students are leaving high school with less exposure to skilled trades. Many job candidates do not have previous experience working as apprentices, technicians, or journeymen. But, what they do have is eagerness and the capability to learn.
In accordance with The Anchor Harvey Way, we were determined to develop a solution to preserve and grow our highly skilled workforce. In the Summer of 2022, Anchor Harvey launched the Forge Your Future Educational Outreach Program. Forge Your Future is an employer-funded higher educational program offered to employees in pursuit of select manufacturing certifications. Anchor Harvey covers 100% of tuition costs, and employees continue to collect their hourly wages. Program participants fulfill a 40-hr week with the combination of schooling and work.
Marty Bondar, Anchor Harvey’s Plant Manager, shared, "Labor is difficult to find. Skilled labor, in particular, is in high demand. We face the same challenges as all manufacturers. Where we differ is we are being proactive to help our employees. The Forge Your Future program was created to provide high-performing employees with the opportunity to advance their position by being trained on the job and receiving a formal education."
Today, Anchor Harvey has five employees enrolled in the Forge Your Future program. William Martin, Nick Huenefeld, and Thomas Carr are pursuing their Industrial Maintenance Electrician certification at Sauk Valley Community College. Nancy Estes and Brad Kappes are achieving their CNC Technician certification at Highland Community College.
"I never had the opportunity to do exciting things like this. I tried in the past, but the stars never aligned. I am extremely grateful to them [Anchor Harvey] for giving me this opportunity to build a career," Nick Huenefeld said when asked about being chosen for the program.
Program member and CNC Technician student, Brad Kappes, is excited to return to his alma mater to advance his career. He previously attended Highland Community College to achieve certificates in welding and manufacturing. Through the Forge Your Future program, Brad will study under the same instructor he had in the past.
"The selection of educational institutions was influenced by several factors," explains Heidi Olson, Anchor Harvey's Human Resources Manager. "Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, IL has the exact program we needed. The CNC program at Highland Community College in Freeport, IL, has been tailored to be what our company needs. The educators at Highland will specifically design its curriculum to help local employers develop needed skills for their workforce.”
Forge Your Future Educational Outreach Program is in its debut year, but Anchor Harvey is optimistic about the positive influence it will have on developing our workforce and providing opportunities to advance within our organization. This program is necessary to keep up with the growing demands of our customers, but it is also a wonderful employee benefit we now offer to our team members to support their personal goals. At Anchor Harvey, it’s not what we make, it’s what we make possible.