Leggett and Platt, ATC partner for career program

Published 11:58 am Monday, September 19, 2016

Furniture wholesaler Leggett and Platt Inc. recently partnered with the Clark County Area Technology Center for Advancing Through Career, a program to help students enter the workforce at an earlier age and learn on-the-job skills, training and language.

Greg Yates, director of Partners in Education, said the program is innovative for PIE and serves as a cooperative for students of the ATC and Leggett and Platt.

He also hopes the model will serve as a stepping stone for other partnerships with ATC students and other industries across Winchester and Clark County.

“It’s something totally different than we’ve ever done,” Yates said. “(ATC Principal) Mike Kindred will select some students and they’ll be pre-screened, do an interview like they would for any job at a company and go through all the normal hiring process and training process.”

The program, which is slated to begin with students in October, will involve high school sophomores through seniors who will work 10 to 15 hours a week. More hours will be allotted for the high school seniors than the sophomores and juniors, who will gradually work their way up through the program.

“We’ll take them through the hiring process and teach them how to do resumes,” Leggett and Platt safety director Russell Allen said. “They’ll be starting off with sophomore and juniors with reduced hours and we’ll give the seniors more hours and also give quarterly raises. Our goal is to play them more than what the fast food industries would pay them.”

Allen also said the goal of the program is to let the students understand if they choose to enter a manufacturing career, they can make a decent living.

“It gives students an opportunity to make decent money while they’re in the program, it’s not a slave labor type of thing,” Allen said. “They’ll work with a mentor, assist with jobs being done and go over different processes.”

Working in industry, typically workers must be at least 18 years old because of insurance and liability issues, Allen said. Leggett and Platt and the ATC are hoping to bridge that gap through this program.

Kindred said many area industries suffer the same problems the ATC has with drugs, alcohol, attendance and work ethic.

“What we’re trying to do is get kids into this program at a little bit younger age,” Kindred said. “Years ago, kids worked on the farm and they were a viable part of that operation. If they didn’t do chores or contribute they typically got into a lot of trouble. Now, we’re trying to educate them until they’re 18 and say ‘There you go.’ Quite often they’re not ready.”

Kindred said while there are legal issues to overcome with liability and insurance, he hopes the program gets interested students into a manufacturing environment where they can learn valuable skills, language and career related topics.

“If they can learn the lingo and understand why math skills are important or why attendance is important, that’s big,” Kindred said. “We can hopefully develop that employee at a much younger age. Hopefully give then a sense of pride and self-esteem.”

Kindred said word of mouth relating the Advancing Through Careers program has been tremendous so far, and a number of students have expressed interest.

“Hopefully it will take off and be a model for other industries in Winchester that will want to take part in it,” Kindred said. “We can build a better workforce.”

Kindred said after touring about 10 industries across Winchester, a common theme was found amongst most of them.

“They’re all struggling for employees,” Kindred said. “It really surprised me they don’t look at high school transcripts. They just say if they can pass a drug test and have a heartbeat, they’ll hire them. Some are looking at felons.

“I think we have to do a better job than what we’re doing. There’s a big disconnect between education and industry and we have to bridge that gap.”

Contact Steve Foley at steve.foley@winchestersun.com or follow him on Twitter @SteveFoley8.