Welding school used to train potential employees
WALNUT — TCI Manufacturing in Walnut has to turn down jobs because there aren’t enough skilled workers on its workforce to get all the work done.
Jack Ackerman, general manager of TCI, said the company has had to turn down work for some time because of the shortfall of employees.
“We could take 15-20 more employees at TCI, mainly in the factory and engineering department,” he said. “A certain segment of the population calls this area their home, but are lacking the skills to better themselves and earn a better living.”
One way the company has tried to rectify the shortage of finding skilled workers is to have a welding school to find and train potential employees.
“We only advertise locally to the local population that we have about this welding school,” Ackerman added.
“We get a few people to spend a few nights a week training on how to read blueprints, how to weld or how to run some of the tools in the shop, some safety protocol. After the course that lasts about eight weeks, they either get put on our payroll or to the top of the list to be hired when the next position becomes available,” Ackerman said.
“When they are in the class, we are not only teaching them a skill, but are sizing them up to see if the candidate has the right attitude to work here. If they come every night on time and have the right attitude, we will train for the rest. It has been pretty successful for us.”
TCI is also working with local high schools (Bureau Valley and Ohio) and vocational schools (Whiteside Area Vocational School).
“In our opinion, there has been an overemphasis in our high school and junior high schools that everybody has to go to college,” Ackerman said.
“We realize not every kid is college material. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with learning a skill or going to a vocational school to learn trade,” he said.
“There are plenty of people around here who are making a good living who never went to college. You can save some student loan debt and get to work right away. We want to work with area high schools and tell kids it is OK not to go to college. There are places like TCI who will be glad to have you,” he said.
There seems to be a shortage of young people who would like to be a welder or a plumber. TCI has some students come to work there a few hours a day for a class credit.
“We even have the first girl in the shop. She is a senior at BV and is very excited to be here. What we do here is not gender specific. In the past, it has been a male-dominated field, but there is no reason why women can’t do some of the things we are doing,” said Ackerman.
Although high school students don’t have to come when school is not in session, Ackerman said there were two young men who came to work all day during their Christmas break.
“I was very glad to see that. A lot of kids wouldn’t have taken that initiative,” he said.
Ackerman said TCI feels the best approach to growing its current workforce from 70 is to attract new talent because the company is based in a rural area of Illinois.
“Employees are our number one asset. We tell employees what is going on in monthly lunches where we celebrate those who have a birthday in that month. We let them ask questions on any topic,” Ackerman added.
Federal tax plan
The recent federal tax plan passed by Congress has allowed TCI to lower its corporate tax rate from 37 to 21 percent.
“We are really excited about that. The plan has been good for the company and the country,” Ackerman said.
“TCI has decided to pass on the savings to its employees through 50-cent-an-hour wage hikes for all hourly employees or $1,000-a-year salary adjustments for non-hourly employees.”
TCI has also reinvested in tooling by buying new paint booth facilities to increase production and a tooling devices to handle plate steel and rotate beams.
Ackerman estimates the company is making a $1 million investment this year through the salary adjustments for its 70 employees and tooling to continue to grow the company due to the federal tax cuts and growth for the company.
“I would like to think a vast majority of responsible companies are reinvesting their dollars saved through the federal tax cuts into employees and the companies. There are some that may not, but we don’t fall into that category,” he said.