Omaha manufacturer grows its own talent to deal with a labor shortage

A manufacturing company in Nebraska partners with a local community college to fast-track potential new employees into open jobs

Almost a third of American companies have a skilled labor shortage, according to a survey by the National Association of Business Economics. Manufacturers have looked to upskilling, reskilling, and partnerships as solutions to bridge the gaps. Some companies are creating their own programs to attract and grow talent—one example, Lozier of Omaha, Nebraska. The 65-year-old company makes fixtures, such as shelves, for major retailers.

“Prior to the [current] shortage, there’s been a mass shortage of skilled labor that’s existed for a lot longer. We’ve had job ads up, done a number of different things from a recruitment perspective over the past years to be competitive and attractive as an employer,” says Lozier spokeswoman Hannah Bolte. “Everyone is hiring, and we needed to stand out.”

Lozier has its own training program for welders. In the summer, it hosted a welding-specific career fair on-site. Jobseekers applied online or on location, met with recruiters, toured the plant, and those who qualified were given a conditional job offer. “We were looking for people who were either a certified welder or willing to learn how to weld. They wanted to learn but for some reasons weren’t certified. We were looking for people with the right attitude and right aptitude,” Bolte says.

Eleven people were hired at the event. Three were already certified welders. Eight entered into the training program.

Local Training Programs are a Pipeline to Skilled Workers
Tammy Green, director of workforce training, Metropolitan Community College (Photo: MCC)

Metropolitan Community College (MCC) works with local company partners to design short-term credit and non-credit training courses towards industry-recognized certifications. Together, Lozier and MCC created a training program and core curriculum specific to welding in an accelerated and condensed format.

“MCC plays a vital role in addressing the skills gaps in Nebraska. We have partnered with multiple companies to not only work to prepare individuals for the workforce through work readiness training but also to provide the technical training,” says Tammy Green, director of MCC Workforce Training.

Nick Hansen, one of Lozier’s new hires, went through the inaugural welding hiring event and training program. Previously, he stocked shelves at a warehouse.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands. It’s more rewarding to me than sitting at a desk. I wanted to learn how to weld, but there were things standing in my way, before this program presented itself to me,” Hansen says.

“I thought the worst thing they could say is ‘no.’ I had never heard of a company that takes amateurs without experience, offers to train them, and pays them for it—and gives them a career path with a future. I’m so glad I went. I’m very fortunate to have landed here.”

For two weeks, trainees participated in classroom learning at MCC, as well as hands-on experience at Lozier.

“It was very straightforward. We spent four hours a day in the classroom and four hours in the weld lab—and later with on-the-job training in the plants. We learned different joints, set-ups, and got a feel for the technique. The weld lab portion was very helpful to be in a classroom environment with an instructor learning the basics. The on-the-job training was invaluable to do my job well,” Hansen says.

Nick Hansen (Photo: Lozier)

At the end of two weeks, trainees were tested and if they passed, they were released to begin working at Lozier. The starting salary ranges from $21 to $25 an hour, depending on the shift. Additional wage increases can be expected after six months, a bonus at 90 days, as well as other things to “sweeten the pot,” Bolte says.

Looking Inward for Needed Talent
Hannah Bolte, spokesperson, Lozier (Photo: Lozier)

While this is the first time Lozier embarked on a program like this, it’s not the first time they’ve created opportunities for their employees looking for a career path within the company.

“We’re a manufacturing facility. Sometimes we bring in folks working in a production job, on a paint line, hanging shelves to go through the paint machine. They look around and see perhaps welding may be of interest. Or a specialized machine operator. There are different pay scales within the facility. We’ve partnered with MCC in the past to give those opportunities to employees,” Bolte says.

“They might have come into a job, but if something piques their interest, we’ll let them get the training they need to move into another position. We want people to be happy in their jobs.”

Lozier considers the welding program a success. While another session is not yet on the calendar, Bolte says future trainings are “not off the table.”

“Prior to Lozier, I was just punching a clock. Jobs I held were just something I did to earn a paycheck,” says Hansen. “Now, I’m on a meaningful career path. I enjoy my work, like my hours, and I’m learning all the time.”