By Kirk Stelsel
When you hire an employee at your business, what are the “must-haves” that you look for in a candidate? Trade skills can be learned and relationships can be built, but attributes such as reliability, confidence, maturity and leadership are hard to teach. These are desirable qualities for any precaster, whether for a position in production, sales or management.
In an effort to provide NPCA members with a pool of candidates who possess these core characteristics, the association has embraced a public/private partnership with the U.S. Army Reserve (AR). The intent is to benefit men and women who have selflessly given of themselves in defense of our country, while strengthening the precast concrete industry workforce and promoting member understanding of the value of citizen soldiers.
Signed, sealed, delivered
In April, a delegation of NPCA representatives traveled to Fort Belvoir, Va., for the signing of a partnership agreement between the association and the AR. Attending the signing on behalf of NPCA were Chairman of the Board Mimi Rainero Coles, President Ty Gable, and John Lendrum, president of Norwalk Concrete Industries and Army Reserve Ambassador to Ohio.
At the signing, Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, director, Human Capital Core Enterprise, Office of the Chief Army Reserve, thanked NPCA for its commitment to AR Soldiers. She also spoke to a personal connection with precast concrete and the role it played in the safety of soldiers during her service in Afghanistan.
“The Army Reserve’s partnership with the National Precast Concrete Association helps our soldiers to optimize their value to the American workforce when supported by employers that truly recognize and embrace their leadership and technical skills,” said Smith. “This partnership helps the employee strike a productive balance between their military and civilian careers.”
The signing of the partnership agreement came on the heels of a very successful exhibit by the AR at The Precast Show 2013 in Indianapolis, where a representative spoke with attendees about the benefits of hiring soldiers and answered questions. The AR will also have a booth at The Precast Show 2014 in Houston.
What can a soldier bring to your business?
When it comes to employment in the private sector, AR soldiers bring a unique set of credentials. Through their military experience, they offer employers a blend of leadership and technical skills thanks to training that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
Perhaps nobody in the NPCA membership has more experience with the AR and the role it plays in the public and private sectors than Lendrum, a retired Army colonel who spent many years in the AR. Fostering the partnership has been a labor of love for Lendrum, who sees the benefits in the soldiers he has hired, including maturity, confidence and leadership skills.
“Soldiers are trained to be problem solvers and think through a situation under stress, then execute once a decision is made,” he said. “They have basic first aid, safety and human resources training, and often military-trained special skills that translate directly to the job. They are technologically savvy, normally multitask well and are not afraid to ask about what they are not familiar with.”
As a business owner, Lendrum has to make some time concessions for employees to attend training or deployment, but has found it to be manageable and not much different than normal vacation schedules. There are protections built in for employers whose employees are facing multiple assignments in a short period of time, and service-related medical needs are also not borne by private insurance plans. In addition, there are some areas where tax incentives and grants for hiring soldiers may be available.
“One way NPCA members can help promote national defense and our security is through full-time employment of Army Reserve soldiers and family members,” he said. “It’s not just big military areas but small, local communities that can benefit from this partnership.”
Exhibit A: A perfect match in El Paso
At NPCA-member company Western Precast in El Paso, Texas, secretary-treasurer Leo Feuerstein found out just how well a veteran of the armed forces could thrive and grow in a precast plant.
Richard Alvarado is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq. During his five years in the military, he spent time training with some of the most elite forces in the Army including the 82nd Airborne’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the Army Rangers. Looking to fill time between the end of his Army career and what he hoped would be the start of a career in law enforcement, Alvarado stopped by Feuerstein’s plant simply because he happened to be passing by one day.
What Feuerstein quickly realized was that Alvarado had all the skills and qualities needed to play an integral role at Western Precast. As eager as Alvarado was to learn and grow – he is a self-described type A personality who loves to “push himself past fear or any other obstacle” – Feuerstein was equally eager to pile on new responsibilities and challenges. Thanks to his training, Alvarado felt ready to attempt anything.
“I knew nothing of precast when I first arrived, but the mentality that I carried lends itself perfectly to a new career,” Alvarado said. “I’ll take anything on with a smile, and I’ll take my lumps from my mistakes, learn from them and move on. I started as dispatch, but I wanted to learn everything I could – sales, shipping, production, drafting, estimating, quality control. So I soaked in everything I could as quickly as possible.
“Success in my opinion requires the same need to avoid complacency both in the military and in a precast plant.”
From an owner’s perspective, Feuerstein found in Alvarado a strict adherence to a high moral code of conduct and a strong commitment to following through on every project.
“It appears to me that the military experience Richard obtained strengthened his desire to succeed and be a true leader,” Feuerstein said. “This type of experience is training and value almost impossible to receive in ordinary civilian life. I would always recommend that you do your due diligence in hiring, but if you have the chance to hire an individual that has served our country with pride and honor, why wouldn’t you?”
Kirk Stelsel is NPCA’s director of Communication.
We’d like to hear about your experiences with Army Reserve Soldiers. If you currently employ a reservist, email us at [email protected].