Manufacturing’s Best Kept Secret: Transformative Jobs – Chris Eldred, TeligentEMS

After two decades of emphasis on a service economy, many people don’t know anyone who works in the manufacturing sector. Most people are either convinced “those jobs have gone away and aren’t coming back” or believe that factories are dirty, noisy places with dead end jobs. The reality is that today’s factories, particularly in the electronics sector, are clean, well-automated facilities with a variety of jobs and career growth opportunities. Yes, many of those jobs moved offshore. However, changes in overseas cost structures, trade agreements and U.S. tax policy are driving a resurgence in U.S. manufacturing jobs. And, as our company, TeligentEMS, can attest to, some of those jobs never went away. We thrive in a segment of the market that requires highly motivated employees to build mission-critical products in medium-to-high volumes. Many of these products require a mix of automation and manual labor because the volumes are not high enough to justify automation. And, I don’t see that situation changing anytime soon.

So, what’s a transformative job? At TeligentEMS, we want employees who understand the technical aspects of our business and are excited about working in an environment where they get to build a variety of products. How do we find those people? We often hire people with limited or no manufacturing experience and train them in the skills they need. That’s what I mean by transformative. Those interested in learning new skills have a path to promotion and higher levels of compensation. We provide the training on-the-job or in some cases, via a tuition refund arrangement with a local institution of higher learning. And, we don’t just hire people for manufacturing jobs. Our company also requires purchasing, accounting, engineering, program management, sales, stockroom clerks, maintenance, operations management and human resource personnel. In short, TeligentEMS provides a very flexible, opportunity-rich environment for people who like challenge and want to excel.

Another key benefit of transformative jobs is that they don’t always require a college degree. To better illustrate, I’d like to share the stories of two of our long-term employees: Richard Chapman and Lois Kenon.

Richard is a manufacturing engineer. Back in the early 80s, he headed to college, earning both AS and AA degrees. However, the video game industry was booming, so he dropped out of FSU to do technical support at a relative’s vending company. A few years later, home video games came out and killed the video game market in that segment segment. He went to back to school and was hired by an electrical firm in Tampa. He later decided to move back to Tallahassee and joined our company as a test technician. He was quickly promoted to test supervisor. Two years later he became production manager. He found he really preferred a technical position and we sent him to the manufacturer of our test equipment to learn more about our test platforms. He became a test engineer, writing test programs and designing test fixtures. He moved into manufacturing engineering 15 years ago and has stayed there. He keeps his coding skills up-to-date by continuing to write programs for some of our test equipment.

When asked what he likes most about working in manufacturing, Richard’s response was,
“You don’t see the same thing every single day. I work on new projects every week at TeligentEMS. One thing folks don’t understand about a company like this. You can start out at whatever level and move up as far as you can perform. People who start out near minimum wage have the ability to get good jobs over time if they are willing to learn the required skills.”

Lois is a rework/repair specialist. She went to work in the service sector after high school, planning to try a few jobs before going to college. A co-worker suggested she look at electronics manufacturing. She spent two years at a company that made traffic signals, learning to solder and read schematics. When they had a layoff, she ended up coming to our company. Lois started out in printed circuit board assembly and then moved to soldering after a job opened up. She was quickly promoted to inspector and then team leader for the soldering department. Today, Lois is the team leader for three departments: selective solder, repair and post operations.

When asked about her journey, Lois said, “The path I’ve chosen has been great opportunity for me to grow, identify and connect in the real world. I appreciate the fact that we are building product that makes life easier for people. I’ve been a leader here for over 20 years. That is where I really specialize in my gift of work. I get to motivate. I get to supervise and monitor my achievement. I love coming up with new ideas and using my imagination to challenge my team to be better. TeligentEMS gives me that leeway to guide my people in growth. They trust me and I love what I do. It is not by accident. I had good leaders who grew me into a leader and now I teach others. It feels like a gift. I take pride in it. People depend on me.”