When Standard Textile realized it was facing a shortage of maintenance professionals due to retirements and a lack of skilled candidates, it chose to meet the problem head-on. Tom Hobbs, human resources director at Standard Textile, describes how Apprenticeship Carolina™ and Spartanburg Community College helped the company embrace the power and potential of apprenticeship to grow its own skilled workforce.
EDGE:Could you give us some background on your company?
Tom Hobbs: We have had our Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Union, South Carolina, since 2004. In our 15 years at this location, we’ve grown from 20 associates to over 150, expanded our building, and added millions of dollars in equipment to keep up with ever-growing product demand. In 2016, we bought an existing warehouse in Buffalo, SC, expanded it to 200,000 square feet, and completely remodeled it to fulfill our need for a distribution center in South Carolina. Our Carolina Distribution Center now employs 12 full-time associates.
EDGE: What kind of apprenticeship program do you have?
TH: Since 2016, we have had five maintenance apprentices through Apprenticeship Carolina. Of those, we have already transitioned three to work as full-time electromechanical technicians.
EDGE: What made you decide to start an apprenticeship?
TH: We noticed a distinct skills gap in the maintenance arena, as well as a shortage of qualified candidates in the local market. Since we were unable to find the right candidates, we decided that we would need to “build” them.
EDGE: How helpful have Apprenticeship Carolina and the college been in setting up your apprenticeship program?
TH: The Spartanburg Community College and Apprenticeship Carolina teams made it easy to set the program up. They were always willing to assist if we had any questions.
Because of the SCC and Apprenticeship Carolina teams, we have been able to take eager, talented, entry-level candidates and mold them into the technicians that we need to help us continue to grow locally, domestically and globally.
EDGE: What are some of the benefits of apprenticeship for your employees?
TH: The employees enjoy the fact that they’re not being “thrown to the wolves” on their first day of work. They know that the expectation is for them to start learning from the ground up.
They also know that we’re going to train them at a pace that is conducive to them being able to learn the requisite skills while being safe and having access to skilled mentors throughout the process.
EDGE: What would you like to highlight about your apprenticeship program?
TH: We would like to highlight the fact that all the apprentices that have completed the two-year program have been transitioned into full-time employment and are still with Standard Textile today.
EDGE: Have you seen any unexpected benefits from your apprenticeship program?
TH: One of our apprentices brought new skills to the position that have helped save Standard Textile a substantial amount of money. Kristian Johnston came to us from Spartanburg Community College’s Union, SC, campus in April 2018. He brought welding skills with him that have allowed us to internalize tens of thousands of dollars in outside contractor expenses. He is well on his way to completing his apprenticeship, as well as his welding and mechatronics degrees. He will be a great long-term member of our team and will once again confirm that our decision to start using apprentices was the right one.
EDGE: What do you personally like most about the apprenticeship program, and why?
TH: The whole team here at Standard Textile really enjoys watching the growth of the apprentices as they gain on-the-job knowledge and experience. It’s very satisfying to know that they are genuinely getting something out of the program that will benefit them throughout their careers.
EDGE: If you had the opportunity to recommend apprenticeship to another company, what would you say?
TH: Don’t hesitate!
Founded in 1940, Standard Textile has developed a culture of innovation, quality and service. With more than 80 patents, its products are engineered to deliver durability, longevity and value. Standard Textile doesn’t just provide on-time, quality products to its clients – it also partners with customers to drive out excess operational costs from their laundry and linen system.
A vertically integrated company, Standard Textile is a leading global provider of total solutions in the institutional textiles and apparel markets. Leveraging textile design, manufacturing, laundry expertise and its global infrastructure, Standard Textile serves customers in the health care, hospitality, interiors, workwear and consumer markets worldwide.