Happy, Well-Trained Workers Lead to Successful Businesses
When Pete Neidecker opened Mountainside Medical Systems (MMS), the shortage of skilled workers hurt his fledgling business’s ability to grow. “It impacted us even getting started,” he says. “We consistently had trouble finding skilled machinists to hire. It became pretty obvious very quickly that there wasn’t a good base of competent machinists who had what we needed to build a long-term business.”
So early on, they started their own training on their own machinery for new employees. “It was expensive,” Neidecker recalls. “It took resources away from producing product for customers—instead, we were putting those into training.”
Effects of the Worker Shortage
He says this drain on resources impacted MMS’s ability to grow. “You can only take on as much business as you’re able to produce.” It restricted the company in a number of ways, including the number of machines MMS could buy. “We did want to have more machinery than people to run it. We’d get stuck at a certain point where we didn’t have labor to run the machine.”
MMS started sending employees to Front Range Community College to learn certain specific skills, like how to accurately read and interpret blueprints. The employees came back with glowing reviews of FRCC, and MMS asked the college if they could hire an instructor to teach their employees onsite. It was the beginning of a significant partnership.
“It was a game changer,” says Neidecker. “[FRCC] staff came to us and asked, ‘What other needs do you have?’ They put me in touch with [President] Andy [Dorsey]. We talked about how the whole industry needed that training.”
A Partnership is Born
He says what was unique about Front Range is that staff listened to industry leaders. “Not just to us at MMS, not just me, but they gathered a lot of input from people in my position—large and small business owners and managers. They let us help design and develop a program that’s valuable to us.”
Discussions like this with manufacturing leaders in the area led to the creation of Front Range’s Precision Machining program at the Boulder County Campus. “When they started the program in Longmont, it almost instantly multiplied the number of potential machinists in area,” Neidecker recalls.
“We were able to start working with students and giving them opportunities to come work for us while still going to school. Within two years, 10 percent of our workforce came out of the FRCC program.”
Neidecker says this eliminated the restriction on his labor pipeline, and allowed his company to plan and grow as they desired. “We knew that if we needed more people, we could bring them on quickly. This allowed us to grow—it was instrumental to our growth.”
MMS, which was acquired by Tecomet Inc. in 2016, also made sure that one of their best machinists teaches at FRCC while keeping his day job. “This partnership helped our business grow, but also provided mentors and great training for our younger employees.”
Neidecker believes the return on investment is huge. “It’s a selfishly good thing to do. You will grow your business and develop your employees. It gives people opportunities to be better at what they do, which makes them happier.”
“It’s not just about the money—it’s about happy people. And happy workers, make for a happy business.”