Finding, hiring and keeping qualified workers is a challenge for many industries, including the finishing industry. The Surface Finishers Committee, a non-profit partnership of the American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society (Cleveland Branch) and the Ohio Association of Metal Finishers, accepted this challenge and developed a program to train workers for the finishing industry. The program was funded by a grant from the Cuyahoga County Department of Entitlement/Employment Services.
Participants in the two-week training program were all welfare recipients. The first week of the course focused on the surface finishing industry, including hazard communication training. The second week emphasized job readiness, self-motivation and related skills. The second week also included visits to and interviews with prospective employers.
Eighteen of the 24 participants have been placed with nine Cleveland-area finishing companies: Areway, Atlas Plating, Barker Products, Champion Plating, Duray Plating, Electrolizing Corp. of Ohio, Erieview Metal, N&W Metal Finishing and Woodhill Plating.
For Shirley Duncan, this was her first employment in 10 years. She had been on welfare raising children and struggling. She felt handicapped on welfare and her benefits were ending. After completing the training course, she was hired at N&W Metal Finishing as a rack plater and recently celebrated 90 days on the job. Ms. Duncan and other graduates earn $6 to $8 an hour in entry-level jobs. In addition, they are able to advance within the company.
As a result of the successful program, Chris Sparano, president of Champion Plating, was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, involving employers who hire welfare recipients out of training programs. Job readiness skills were noted as the most important factor to employers and employees. The roundtable also noted that government must help with transition.
Many see welfare reform as too big for them to handle. Many do not feel it is their responsibility. How fortunate that this group of Cleveland-area platers decided that it was their problem. They did do something about it. And even if only 24 graduated from the first class, that means there are 24 fewer people on welfare.