Work ethic is draw

Published 4:43 pm Saturday, May 11, 2013

While many potential workers are rushing to community colleges and technical schools to get the needed skills to land a job with companies like Airbus, some employers in Atmore are saying the skills may not even be the most important thing they look for in a new hire.

Paula Ferguson, a human resources representative for Alto Products, said the company does employ some of the same positions as Airbus and other larger companies, but is also in need of people simply willing to show up and learn.  “I need mechanical ability, number one,” Ferguson said. “If someone walks in with good mechanical aptitude, we can train people. Just a basic knowledge of tools helps.” While Ferguson said local jobs in areas like welding, which is a skill taught at Atmore’s Jefferson Davis Community College campus, are few and far between, machining ability is in high demand.

“There’s not a lot in welding here,” she said. “We have like two different positions, and there really is no turnover. We really need people in machining, which isn’t really taught around here. Someone with mechanical ability in general.  They could end up being a set up director.” She said the ability to learn on the job can translate into well-paying employment for local workers not wanting to commute to Mobile and other areas.  “Some of these are skill positions,” she said. “No one’s going to walk out of high school and know that stuff.  We’ve thought about apprenticing. We can train people.  And those jobs are a step up from our normal positions. We have toolmakers now that can make good money in an air conditioned building.”

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Ferguson said, for those people who are getting professional training, an important aspect not to overlook is the role of computers in the workplace.  “No matter what trade you take on, you should have a basic clerical knowledge, because most of these machines are run by computers, so a knowledge of computers is needed.” Ellis Beachy, owner of Escofab, said his workforce is small, but jobs in areas also needed by Airbus and others are available in Atmore.

“We have welders, but the turnover tends to be a little longer,” Beachy said. “But we do have guys that move on.” Beachy said more often than not it is younger workers who tend to leave for other positions, opening a slot for skilled workers to fill.

“One thing we’ve found is some of the guys tend to move just because they dream bigger dreams or they go on the road,” he said. “We have a core group of people here, but we do have a certain element that move on.” Both employers said, while skills are very important, another characteristic they look for in new hires is simply a good work ethic.

“Work ethic is a challenge,” Beachy said. “There’s no doubt about it. Whether it is motivational skills that you feel like you need or just people that will show up day in and day out.”

Ferguson said the desire to work and perform well is also very important at Alto.

“I actually have had people that say how badly they need a job, but then they don’t show up to work,” she said.  “Attendance. That’s our biggest problem.”

Both Ferguson and Beachy also pointed to the physical interview process as a place where a bad impression could trump a good resume.

“I had one person take a math test and he wrote everything on the desk,” Ferguson said. “We’re not going to hire you if you can’t even respect the furniture and things in the office.”

Ferguson said there are also very small things candidates for a position can do that will go a long way with potential employers.

“Act interested,” she said. “Make eye contact. Ask questions. Just little things like that.”