Truss Building 101: (No Pre-Reqs)

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Truss Building 101: (No Pre-Reqs)

Technical backgrounds aren't mandatory for students entering the industry with Grizzly Truss.

When Grizzly Truss Fabricators in Bemidji, Minnesota opted to offer part-time positions to local college students, President Michael Hoven was in for a surprise. “Our best worker,” he marveled, “was a student studying exercise science.”

Grizzly has had good success attracting part-time help by broadening the scope of potential employees to students in any field of study. “A good worker can come from any type of background,” said Hoven. “We wanted to find young laborers willing to work, and focusing on students just from the industrial technology program was limiting. So we opened up the opportunity to students from all disciplines,” he explained. Since then, they have strengthened their relationship with the local college, and they consistently recruit young talent from a wide variety of majors, from nursing to technology, for part-time employment.

Grizzly teaches all kinds of students that it’s ok—in fact, it’s interesting and rewarding—to work and build with your hands. “If there is a willingness to work hard, then we want those students on our team,” said Hoven. For years, he explains, it’s been a “friends referring friends” system: as students graduate, they recommend other hard workers and quick learners. The cycle has helped Grizzly address the challenge of finding workers with a long-term commitment.

Of course, part-time student labor comes with challenges. When a student employee joins the team, time management becomes a critical part of a good working relationship. Grizzly collaborates with the student to set hours that are conducive to the plant’s production operations as well as the student’s class schedule.

Grizzly has also had to explore new ways of reaching out
to the labor market. Its recruitment efforts include advertising entry-level positions on the company website as well as local and regional job boards, using a temporary staffing agency, and posting openings on social media. Hoven has been impressed to find that good candidates come in through the company’s Facebook page.

Grizzly continues to pursue new ways of building a pipeline of reliable recruits. Prominent in its efforts is evaluating a state-funded program that could allow high school students to work in the truss plant. The program is in its early stages, as legal, risk and safety issues still need to be addressed, but Hoven is optimistic. He’s convinced that introducing manufacturing careers and the component industry to a young generation “will let us teach students what a truss is and how it is manufactured early on, and long before they’re ready to decide to study to become an architect or engineer.”

Hoven admits that finding good workers is an ongoing challenge for a small truss plant. But, he says, failing is not an option: “You just have to keep trying. And try everything.” 

About the Author: Lena Giakoumopoulos joined SBCA’s membership development team in 2014 and also focuses on workforce development and other management committee initiatives. She holds a masters degree in global marketing and has written for newsletters, manuals, brochures and websites.