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Faces of Manufacturing

300th Apprentice’s story illustrates career growth potential in manufacturing

Last month we reported that the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network, of which MVMC is a part, reached its 5-year goal of enrolling 300 registered apprentices in the American Apprenticeship Initiative grant.

 

In fact, 18 MVMC members were among 70 manufacturers in the region to participate in this $2.9 million grant.

 

This month we tracked down the apprentice who pushed us over the top. He is 29-year-old Mark Kmecik of Girard, Pa., from Northwestern Manufacturing in Lake City, Pa. His backstory illustrates the rewarding, long-term career paths available in manufacturing and is worth sharing.

An apprentice works on machinery.
Helping MVMC meet its goal of 300 registered apprentices for a grant was Mark Kmecik, through Northwestern Manufacturing in Pennsylvania.

After serving in the U.S. Navy, Mark attended trade school for CNC machining.

 

He secured a job that offered an apprenticeship program so he could continue learning and earn additional certifications to advance his career.

 

He’s hoping to complete his current apprenticeship in 2 or 3 years, Mark said.

 

“I just started, but I am looking forward to branching out and growing my knowledge in more areas of machining.”

 

The program at NWM isn’t necessarily time-based, Clay Brocious, plant manager, said.

 

“Based on the framework provided by the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network, our program is a knowledge and competency-based program.”

 

Apprenticeship programs help shape people’s work trajectory, Mark said.

Mark Kmecik is a U.S. Navy veteran who recently enrolled in an AAI apprenticeship program.

“I think offering structured training is a good way for companies to attract and retain goal-oriented people by giving them clear objectives for growth,” Mark said.

 

When he’s not studying, Mark and his wife, Lydia, are kept busy with their 1-year-old daughter, Eve.

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Faces of Manufacturing

Work ethic is key for Clark Dietrich employee

In the massive ClarkDietrich facility in Vienna, chances are most employees know and love Gordana Davis.

 

She just celebrated her second year with the company, and has been in manufacturing for 24.

 

“I’ve been working all my life,” Davis said. “I’m all about working and getting the job done.”

ClarkDietrich employee Gordana Davis stands in the Vienna facility.
Gordana Davis has worked with ClarkDietrich for two years, but has been in manufacturing for 24. Her commitment to her career and the industry are from a team-mentality of showing up to work to complete a task.

Born in Bosnia, Davis came to the United States in 1975 when she was 14, not speaking any English.

 

She went to school and learned the language from the foundations of ABCs and sounds.

 

In 1983, Davis got married to an American man. Together, they had three children.

 

Throughout her time building a life in the States, Davis worked as a cashier for 13 years before she headed to manufacturing.

 

Thinking about the start of her manufacturing career, Davis said: “I remember going home the first day, I couldn’t even walk up the steps.”

 

From there, she has learned every role in the company she could, training thousands of people during her time in the manufacturing industry.

 

“Everybody put trust in me.”

 

Davis loves the physical labor that goes along with overseeing her work, keeping schedule to her tasks. “I like the fast-pace” environment of the industry, she said.

 

It wasn’t long before Davis learned every role in the company she could, training thousands of people over the years.

 

Davis has only called off once — one day — in more than two decades.

 

“It’s all about commitment,” she said. “You need to be here to produce the job so we don’t lose manufacturing.”

 

ClarkDietrich is a newer member of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

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Faces of Manufacturing

ClarkDietrich supervisor works way up ranks

Michael Fountain, production supervisor at ClarkDietrich in Vienna, has worked his way up the ranks within the company during his 11 years.

 

He first started in the corner bead department, the fastest-pace area of the facility, as a temp employee.

 

“I stuck my nose to the grindstone and kept at it,” Fountain said.

 

He ultimately was offered a permanent position, becoming a roll form operator for nearly six years.

 

Then, Fountain transitioned to shipping for four and a half years before taking on his current role.

michael fountain in forklift
Production Supervisor Michael Fountain worked his way up at ClarkDietrich in Vienna over his 11 years there.

New beginnings

Coming to ClarkDietrich was a career change for Fountain.

 

Working at Northside Hospital in environmental services prior to joining ClarkDietrich, Fountain was enlisted in the United States Army before that.

 

While employed at the hospital, Fountain was hopeful of a long-term relationship with Northside.

 

“I was looking to move up there,” which didn’t end up happening as the hospital was purchased, and some layoffs started to happen.

 

Fountain made it through a few waves of pink slips, but ultimately was laid off.

 

Through temp agencies, Fountain bounced around. When the call from ClarkDietrich happened, he told his wife he would hold off. Finally talking with the agency, he was asked if he would travel, and how far.

 

“I asked how far, and they replied, ‘to Trumbull County,’” Fountain recalled, responding: “I’m on my way.”

 

He hasn’t looked back.

Leading by example

 

During the interview process for production supervisor, Fountain was asked what his approach to being a supervisor would be.

 

“I had this big, grand answer” that was eventually summarized by the interviewer, Fountain said.

 

His approach is best said in three words: By your side.

 

“That’s how I like to lead. It’s not in front of my employees or behind them, but right by their side,” Fountain said. “If there’s an issue, I like to be right there next to them to figure it out together.”

 

There’s a side-by-side approach day in and day out at ClarkDietrich company-wide, Fountain said.

Finding a balance

 

Through his manufacturing career, he’s worked various shifts to best support his family, and each time, ClarkDietrich has valued his decisions, Fountain said.

 

When he’s had to take time off due to family deaths or sickness, his colleagues have reached out to check in on him, not to pressure him into coming back to work.

 

“They were making sure I was taking time to recover properly,” Fountain said.

 

It ranged from his team he supervises to facility administration and management.

 

For someone considering a career change or coming out of high school and not sure what to do with their life, Fountain said ‘look into manufacturing.’

 

“Get out of your own way,” he said. “Just jump. You’ll never know if you can fly or not unless you jump.”

 

When you jump and you start to fall instead of soar, Fountain said chances are, someone will be there to catch you and lift you up where you need to be.

 

“That’s a very positive thing I experience every day.”

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Faces of Manufacturing

Faces of Manufacturing – Sugeily Melendez

Sugeily Melendez is a mom by day and packer at a Mahoning Valley aluminum extrusion company by night. She has worked at Pennex Aluminum in Leetonia for just under two years and is already climbing the “aluminum ladder.”

Her career with Pennex began as a forklift operator. She has since moved to her current position as packer and is in training to become a loader. Part of her drive to keep moving forward comes from her desire to dispel stereotypes of what women “can’t do.”

melendez at Pennex
Sugeily Melendez of Youngstown is a single mother who found a rewarding career in manufacturing that offers the flexibility and clean environment she was looking for.

“I feel I’m more competitive than some of the men and I’m always trying to set goals to surpass my trainers and move past stereotypes of what women can’t do. Anyone can be successful here when they show up with a good attitude and the willingness to learn something new,” she said.

Single mom derives motivation from her kids

Her primary motivation, however, comes from her children. Melendez is a single mother of three. She loves the overnight shift because it allows her the flexibility to maintain a successful work-life balance.

“Third shift is perfect for me as a single parent. I spend time with my kids and get them ready for bed at their grandma’s or their dad’s before I head to work and then I’m home in the morning to get them ready for school. While they’re in school, I nap and then we do it all over again,” said Melendez.

Family is a part of the core values at Pennex, she described.

“The atmosphere here is like one big family. They’re also very flexible when it comes to sick kids and doctor appointments,” she added.

melendez working
In less than 2 years, Melendez has already advanced multiple times at Pennex, currently working in the shipping department on the 3rd shift.

In addition to schedule flexibility and a welcoming workforce, Melendez, of Youngstown, said Pennex Aluminum also offers a safe and clean work environment.

“I just came off of a 10-hour shift and I’m still clean. I can rock my nails and I’ve never broken one. This is not a dirty, dusty place. It is a clean and healthy place to work,” said Melendez.

Pennex Aluminum is a member of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

Pennex and many other local manufacturers are currently looking for dedicated individuals to join their teams. On-the-job training is available and no experience is required. Interested applicants for Pennex can explore openings here.

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Faces of Manufacturing

Faces of Manufacturing: Philip Minniti, Brainard Rivet

Philip Minniti started at employee-owned, Girard-based manufacturer Brainard Rivet in 2015 and has parlayed his time there into an upward-trajectory career and a college degree.

“I started out running the cleaning department and then bounced around to packing, billing, and settled into the shipping manager position,” Philip said.

phillip minniti
Brainard Rivet shipping manager Philip Minniti followed in his family’s footsteps into the manufacturing industry and is leveraging the career path to complete his degree at YSU. He hopes to stay at Brainard Rivet and go “as far as they’ll let me go here.”

A 2011 high school graduate, Philip, like many of his peers went straight to college where he began pursuing a degree in Business Administration. To avoid taking out student loans, he took a part-time job with UPS that ended up being a heavier workload than anticipated. That, coupled with an orthopedic injury that led to a physical rehab schedule that conflicted too much with classes, led to Philip’s withdrawal from college.

Family ties lead to Brainard Rivet

After leaving school, Philip was searching for a full-time position when he came across an opening at Brainard Rivet. After speaking with his uncles, one a current Brainard employee and one a former employee, as well as his grandfather, a Brainard retiree, he decided to go for it.

Six years later, Philip has settled into a position as shipping manager and, thanks to Brainard’s educational assistance program, is back in college at Youngstown State University resuming his studies. His day-to-day tasks include scheduling each department to ensure shipments are being filled and going out on time, helping the sales team meet quotas, and assisting anywhere he is needed.

“When you have someone with a strong work ethic like Phil you can train them in different areas and see were the best fit for them is, and that’s what we did. We tried him in a few positions and landed on shipping manager,” said Chris Morrison, plant manager.

A bright future in manufacturing

Chris said he and the staff at Brainard allow adjustments for Philip’s school schedule, adding that what Philip is doing is incredibly difficult, but not impossible. Philip hopes others who see his story will consider manufacturing as a career option.

Outside of Brainard and YSU, Philip enjoys a steady schedule of recreational sports and fantasy football. As for where Phil hopes to be after graduation, “I’m looking to go as far as they’ll let me go here. I’m always willing to learn anything and everything.”

Brainard Rivet is a world-class, cold-headed manufacturer of rivets and fasteners for the agriculture, distributor, energy, furniture, healthcare, mining, railroad, transportation and general metalworking industries. It began operations in 1916 and became employee-owned and operated in 1998.

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Faces of Manufacturing

Faces of Manufacturing: David Dellick, General Extrusions

Press operator David Dellick has been with family-owned aluminum extruder, General Extrusions of Boardman for more than 6 years. After getting his start in manufacturing at a local lamination factory, David started at General Extrusions as a helper on afternoons.

As a testament to the opportunity for quick advancement at General Extrusions, David began working his way up within the company.

He moved to a press operator on midnights where he followed his personal philosophy, “Be better than the person you were yesterday.”

David Dellick
Youngstown-area native David Dellick has found a home in manufacturing at General Extrusions, providing a solid living, excellent benefits and flexibility to be a great parent.

Following that driving force, and enabled by a series of retirements creating the openings that allowed him to work his way up the seniority ladder, David became a supervisor on midnights. To most, this would seem a quick and impressive career trajectory, but to David, it’s remarkably unremarkable.

“Just show up, work hard, and show initiative to learn, retain the knowledge, and better yourself,” he said matter-of-factly.

Work-Life Balance

As a husband and father with three young children, David’s home life required a move to day shift, a move that his employer accommodated.

“I was going to sleep as soon as I got off work, getting up at 2 o’clock and going to pick up the kids from school and daycare only to leave for work as soon as my wife got home,” David said.

Modernized Manufacturing

The three-shift union shop at General Extrusions has been in business for more than 60 years and as manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley continues to grow, they are looking toward the future. David explained this is not the manufacturing of the past.

exterior building shot General Extrusions
General Extrusions is among many Mahoning Valley manufacturers who are currently hiring. Visit workadvanceohpenn.org for details.

“You can wear decent clothes to work and go home mostly clean,” he laughed.

David cited some of the obvious benefits of the job such as full-time employment with competitive wages, yearly raises, overtime and opportunity for advancement, 401K, healthcare, dental, vision, and paid vacation. He also highlighted some less obvious job perks.

At General Extrusions, David has made what he calls “life-long friends” and been able to maintain a successful work-life balance allowing him to build his life as he makes a living.

Now Hiring

General Extrusions is now searching for up to 12 production workers. Hourly wages start at $12.28 and increase to $14.49 after 60 days. Interested candidates should visit www.workadvanceohpenn.org and register for an information session to learn more about the openings.