How Do You Tap New Pipelines of Talent?

In survey after survey, Vistage members report that finding talent is a top challenge. We found two members who took different innovative approaches to hiring that helped both their companies and their communities.

Chuck Nalon is division president of Ed Miniat, LLC, in South Holland, Illinois, which provides value-added meats to restaurant chains and consumer packaged goods companies.

Kelli-Marie Vallieres is president of Sound Manufacturing, a precision sheet metal contract manufacturer, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, and president of the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, representing 70 manufacturing members.

Q. What was your path to finding new talent pipelines?

Vallieres: I’ve been working to launch and support educational programs at community colleges through the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative (MPI) and Connecticut Advanced Manufacturing Initiative (CAMI). It’s very difficult to find people who have the skills we need, so I look to these programs first for all new hires. We’ve recruited three students from the CAMI program, for example, and even sent three Sound Manufacturing employees to learn new skills.

Nalon: My Vistage Chair introduced me to the concept of inclusion and disability hiring. This led me to send my senior vice president of human resources to the Harkin International Disability Employment Summit. There, she connected with a firm that specializes in establishing a framework for employers to conduct such hiring and accommodate new workers.

Q. How has this talent development process benefited your company?

Vallieres: Since last November we’ve hired 10 employees, going from 66 to 76. Seven of them came right from the educational programs, where they gained the applicable skills, to our manufacturing floor. At Three Rivers Community College, I taught a workforce development class, and my engineering and quality managers each taught technical classes in the campus labs. We got to show students what employers value in candidates.

Nalon: We have 14 employees with disabilities in the program out of 650 employees in the factory. They are deaf, have learning issues or are missing limbs. I have a staffer who oversees the disability hiring program. Since factory jobs are tough, we set up a workshop to help our supervisors understand how to best help our employees with disabilities succeed. Everyone here has started to embrace this. It’s inspirational.

Q. How has your approach had a positive impact on your community?

Vallieres: By advancing and supporting these educational programs, people in our community are finding employment. CAMI has a 98 percent placement rate. MPI has placed 1,000 people at 137 companies since its inception. Legislators have earmarked $50 million to expand this initiative throughout Connecticut to service the manufacturing, healthcare and aerospace fields.

Nalon: We’ve had requests from nearly 50 candidates with disabilities who come to us through local nonprofits that understand their needs and potential. Working with them helps make a difference in the community. We screen candidates based on their ability to perform the job. We’re looking to keep hiring great people with disabilities, and I’m happy to help other Vistage members who are interested in doing the same.

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