Calder Brothers Encourages the Next Generation of the Manufacturing Workforce Through Training and Investment

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6/21/2024

Calder BrothersBy Danny Gavin, AEM Communications Coordinator — 

Workplaces across the U.S. are experiencing workforce shortages, with the manufacturing industry being hit particularly hard – and South Carolina asphalt paving equipment manufacturer and AEM member company Calder Brothers is no exception.

Glen Calder, the company’s vice president of operations, and Jonn Harris, its senior operations manager, have been hard at work finding alternative solutions to attract talent. And, as a result of their efforts, the family-owned and operated business has made an impact in Greenville, South Carolina, for its investment and involvement in a local technical training program.

“You know, I think every manufacturer in the country is challenged with staffing right now,” said Calder. “I had tasked John a while ago with trying to address our staffing challenge – to come up with some creative solutions and get more candidates, and better candidates, coming through our door.”

From Staffing Struggles to Signs of Success

At first, Harris reached out to the only technical community college in their area, but he didn’t get any traction at that level. Harris explained that he figured the college was already working with larger manufacturers in town, and he decided to pursue other options.

Harris went back to the drawing board and reached out to the technical programs at the high school level, specifically the Bonds Career Center, and has seen far more success than he ever expected. These programs didn’t seem to have the same relationship with larger manufacturers in town, and they have embraced the interest that Calder Brothers has shown.

The Bonds Career Center offers several opportunities for high school students to participate in work-based learning, including a welding program, a machine shop program, and an auto body shop program, all of which expose employees to a variety of manufacturing positions in the area and beyond.

Want more information on best practices, tools, programs, and resources to help attract and retain the right talent? Visit AEM’s Workforce Solutions Toolkit.

 

Glenn Calder

“It’s just been an overwhelming success for us to combine the incoming workforce with employees who have been with us for a long time. Different groups of people bring different perspectives and experiences, and this has moved us forward as a company and changed the way we operate as a whole.” Calder Brothers' Glen Calder

 

Welcoming the New, and Refreshing the Old

Through its involvement in the career center, Calder Brothers has mentored and trained six female welding student employees, who have all since competed in national welding competitions. The addition of younger employees, and a more diverse crowd overall, has brought significant changes to the current workforce.

As the manufacturer has been teaching new students about being in the manufacturing workspace, current Calder Brothers employees are getting involved. As they work alongside each other, new employees benefit from the decades of combined knowledge that experienced employees can provide, and current employees are noticeably revitalized

“It’s just been an overwhelming success for us to combine the incoming workforce with employees who have been with us for a long time. Different groups of people bring different perspectives and experiences, and this has moved us forward as a company and changed the way we operate as a whole,” explained Calder.

Making a Difference in South Carolina and Beyond

South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette, has recognized the Calder Brothers effort and has taken an interest in the partnership that is progressing manufacturing in the state. She has taken a specific interest in the Bonds Career Center, and she has supported the manufacturing workforce in the state in genera and tried to reinforce opportunities for training.

South Carolina is eager to be a leading manufacturing destination in the country, and Calder Brothers feels that programs like those offered at Bonds Career Center need to be replicated across the state to really address the workforce shortages and propel the state into the future.

 

John Harris

“We have a real avenue for the kids that aren't going to go to college, and I think nationwide there's this tremendous pressure on kids in high school that they must go to college, or they’re not going to be successful in life. And we need to change the narrative on that.” -- Calder Brothers' Jonn Harris

 

The Importance of Investing in Skilled Trade Education

The career center has around 40 welding stations, and more applicants than they know what to do with – around 160 high schoolers, to be exact. While these career training centers are expensive to run, as cost of materials and paying faculty adds up, but it's clear there is a massive demand for them.

Calder Brothers and its partnership with Bonds Career Center is bringing attention to the fact that there are alternatives to getting a 2- or 4-year degree, and that the career paths they result in are fulfilling and profitable. And, with attention and investment from other manufacturers into similar career centers, what Calder Brothers has achieved can be replicated, helping manufacturers and high school students alike.

“We have a real avenue for the kids that aren't going to go to college, and I think nationwide there's this tremendous pressure on kids in high school that they must go to college, or they’re not going to be successful in life. And we need to change the narrative on that,” said Harris.

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