A Conversation with Sheila LaMothe

Sheila LaMothe, executive director of the CCAI Finishing Education Foundation, discusses educational opportunities within the finishing industry and the foundation’s overarching mission.
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Sheila LaMothe, executive director, CCAI Finishing Education Foundation
Photo Credit: Anne Goyer

Sheila LaMothe is the executive director for the Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI) Finishing Education Foundation. LaMothe first got involved with CCAI during her 15-year tenure with TRUMPF, a leading manufacturer of sheet metal fabrication equipment and industrial lasers. LaMothe was responsible for the company’s marketing and PR activities in North America and served on the Exhibitor Advisory Council (EAC) for FABTECH. Her involvement with the EAC introduced her to Anne Goyer, CCAI, and the finishing industry.

We caught up with LaMothe to hear about CCAI’s Finishing Education Foundations’ expanding mission.

What are your thoughts regarding educational opportunities in the industry?

Whether you are just starting off in your career or are an industry veteran, taking advantage of education and training opportunities is crucial to professional and personal development. Technology and market trends change continually and if you want to remain relevant in your role, advance your career, or try something new you need to keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry. We can learn so much from each other and the relationships that often develop through the networking opportunities many programs offer.

Tell us about the foundation’s mission.

One of CCAI’s primary initiatives has always been education. The foundation was developed to help further that initiative. The goal is to support education and training programs that improve skills at all levels within the industrial finishing and coatings industry for the benefit of our industry today and to build a stronger future for tomorrow.

Tell us about some of the programs that are currently part of the foundation.

It’s no secret that there is an ongoing and expansive need for skilled employees in our industry. So, while it is important to attract new talent to the finishing and coatings industry, it’s just as important that we retain those that have already chosen a career in industrial finishing. Therefore, our programs are twofold focusing on attraction and retention. Recruitment and retention of under-represented groups like women, students in inner cities, and the Spanish speaking community in our industry are also part of our initiatives.

In terms of specific programs, there are a number of existing programs along with several in development.

Women in Finishing (WiF) is one of our current programs and offers women in our industry the opportunity to network and learn together. The WiF Webinar Series addresses professional development topics, but also personal development areas such as financial planning. The WiF FORUM is our signature event and is a two-day conference that is packed with educational sessions, networking events, team-building exercises and tours of finishing operations.

CCAI’s technical manuals have been a trusted industry resource for years. As part of our initiative to reach and provide high-quality training resources to the Spanish-speaking finishing community, four of the five manuals have been translated into Spanish.

The Matt Heuertz Scholarship Program strives to recruit bright young talent to our industry by providing scholarship awards to high school seniors and college students whose studies could lead to a career in finishing. Over the past several years, more than $100,000 has been awarded to deserving students.

We are excited to offer a new scholarship in 2021 connected to the WiF FORUM. It was established in memory of one of our first WIF members, Elizabeth Teska of BASF/Chemetall. The scholarship will provide the opportunity for two women to attend the FORUM each year by covering the registration fees and accommodations costs.

In addition to our current programs, there are several in development that no doubt will be of interest to many in the industry. In the second half of 2021 we expect to launch the powder coating and liquid coating modules of our new online curriculum. The program will also offer pretreatment, system design and electrodeposition modules which can be taken individually or as a series.

Development of an in-person curriculum is also underway. Topics will include those in the online curriculum as well as a quality, maintenance, troubleshooting and cost module. The in-person curriculum will be supplemented by hands-on learning through finishing labs supported by CCAIFEF.

Our Tech Week program will be available for use by high schools throughout the U.S. in the fall of this year. This 5-day program features 45-minute sessions that introduce the finishing industry and the career opportunities it offers to high schoolers. The program will be available, free of charge, and is also part of our initiative to reach inner-city students.

Tell us about those leading the charge for CCAIFEF.

The CCAIFEF Board of Directors is comprised of industry veterans with great passion for the future of our industry. We are grateful for their support and leadership as we grow the Foundation. Our current board includes Sam Woehler, President (George Koch Sons), Dr. Victoria Gelling, Vice President (The Sherwin-Williams Company), Ron Lum, Secretary/Treasurer, Patricia Hendricks, Director (retired), Frank Laster, Director (A1 Paint, Powder & Sandblasting), Bob Warren, Director (retired).

With CCAI and CCAIFEF both dedicated to educating and training the finishing industry, three CCAIFEF board members also serve on the CCAI board. They are Sam Woehler, Ron Lum and Bob Warren.

What kind of advice do you have for those who want to get involved?

Having an education foundation provides a vehicle to expand educational offerings to the industry, but in order for it to be successful, it needs funding. We recently started a Founding Member campaign to help build a financial foundation upon which our programs will be built and expanded. Through this exclusive, limited-time opportunity, donors of $5,000 or more will be forever recognized as a champion of finishing education today and tomorrow. Our Founding Members are celebrated in a variety of ways and currently include, at the Patron Level, Bob Warren and Carole Curry-Warren, and, at the Supporter Level, CCAI Southern California Chapter, GAT Finishing Systems, The Koch Foundation and Mighty Hook.

The Founding Member campaign is currently scheduled to run through the end of 2021 and offers a variety of participation options.

There are plenty of other ways to get involved. We need help spreading the word about our programs, expanding the reach of our scholarship programs, assistance with program development, presenters for WiF webinars and events and much more. If you are in the finishing industry this is your education foundation. If you want to be involved, we want to find a way for you to do so.

We are excited to talk with companies, organizations and individuals to determine how we can best collaborate. To get the ball rolling, I suggest those with interest contact me directly by phone (941) 373-1830 or email sheila@goyermgt.com.