Pella Corp: Opening Doors Through Workforce Development

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME on December 05, 2017

A recent IndustryWeek article reported the demand for skilled professionals is at a 10-year high. The manufacturing industry — likely your company too — is actively looking for ways to recruit and retain for open positions, from machinist to welder.

Pella Corp: Opening Doors Through Workforce Development

We are inspired by Pella Corporation’s story and approach to this challenge. Based in Pella, Iowa, the company has been creating innovative and high-quality windows and doors for more the 90 years.

One of the happy byproducts of Pella’s thriving culture and company is low turnover. In fact, some of its workers in the tech trades have more than 30 years of experience.

With this long tenure, the company hasn’t needed to build strong relationships with educators and workforce development groups to feed the talent pipeline. However, in the next 5 to 10 years, Pella, like many manufacturers, will face significant retirements. In addition, teams need to be ready for rapidly advancing technologies, and more complex machines and equipment. Recruiting and training are now a top priority to stay ahead of the competition.

Kurtis Webb, production manager at Pella’s Manufacturing and Engineering Services facility, said, “At Pella, we have a 90-plus-year history of innovation, and we’re viewing how we’re handling our tech trades’ staffing and development activities as another one of those innovations.”

We worked with Pella to conduct a Workforce Performance Assessment (WPA), an analysis of an organization’s knowledge gaps and ability to support a comprehensive training program, to address their business needs:

  • Identify gaps
  • Fill vacant positions
  • Retain highly qualified team members
  • Update standardized training program

Jim Ver Woert, the Tooling U-SME team member who oversees the company’s work with Pella, said, “Things are pretty tight at Pella when it comes to learning and development. They have a strong learning culture with clear job titles and descriptions, and workers know their role and what is expected. Through the Workforce Performance Assessment, however, we were able to help identify some gaps that, when addressed, can help the company build productivity, enhance team member engagement, and continue to be an employer of choice.”

Based on the WPA, Pella has initiated several programs to hone its ongoing standardized training program to engage and retain talent.

As Webb said, “What is better to invest in than that precious resource you have in your organization who is a proven person who fits your culture? We can chase down recruiting, and go to colleges and tech schools, but if we’re really investing in our own team members so they can reach their fullest potential, that’s going to serve the business very well.”

To learn more about Pella’s approach, best practices and successes, read this case study. We think you’ll be as inspired by this near century-old company’s modern approach to workforce development as we are.

Tags: IndustryWeek, "Jim Ver Woert", "Kurtis Webb", manufacturing, "Pella Corporation", "skills gap", "standardized training program", "Tooling U-SME", "workforce development", "Workforce Performance Assessment"