Sometimes you're lucky enough to have the right message, and the right people delivering that message. When that happens, the results can be exciting.
Noel Ginsburg is an example. He's the chairman and CEO of Intertech Plastics Inc., a Denver-based injection molder.
Intertech, like a lot of plastics processors, was having trouble finding employees. It's a common problem. In fact, I'd venture to say that if you polled injection molders every year for the past 50, you would find that recruiting and keeping talented workers would always be among their top concerns.
But Ginsburg isn't someone who just sits back and complains. He got involved, and he's actively trying to solve the problem.
Ginsburg shared his story with the sold-out crowd at the recent Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference in Indianapolis. In my opinion, it was an unexpected highlight.
He started by describing someone else's story, and one that I remember well: the 60 Minutes report from 1986 on wealthy New York businessman Eugene Lang.
Lang was invited to give a speech at the elementary school he had attended as a boy, and he ended up promising the class of Harlem sixth-graders that if they made it through high school, he would help pay for their college education.
It was an audacious promise. Lang had planned to give the kids a speech about how if they worked hard and got good grades, they could be successful — like him. But when he came to the class and saw those kids in person, he tore up the speech — and started a movement.
Lang's story inspired Ginsburg. So when Lang's effort morphed into the “I Have a Dream” foundation, Ginsburg was a founding member of the Colorado chapter.
But as the owner of an injection molding company, Ginsburg knows that college isn't for everyone — there are plenty of opportunities for good careers in manufacturing, too. So he's also offered summer internships at Intertech.
The latest news — Intertech has partnered with local schools and now has a fledgling apprentice program. Gov. John Hickenlooper is a supporter, and he's planning a trip Switzerland next year, where he hopes to learn more about the apprentice programs there, so that Colorado can copy some of the best ideas.
Last year Intertech's efforts drew the attention of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who toured the plant to put a spotlight on its workforce development efforts. But that doesn't mean this is a partisan effort. Just the opposite — Ginsburg stressed that this is an issue that's good for the country, and both parties need to get on board.
Ginsburg's goal is to link Denver's high schools, trade schools, community colleges and employers so that young people can get the training they need to find a good job when they graduate. That will give young people hope, and encourage more of them to finish school. Local factories, like his, will have a steady supply of workers with the skills they need.
But looking at the big picture, he'd like the availability of a pool of apprenticeship-trained workers to make Denver a preferred location for companies to set up new operations.
Ginsburg's talk seemed to energize and inspire others at the MAPP meeting, so I won't be surprised if other processors get involved in their own apprenticeship efforts next year.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.” Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.