Twin City Hardware hires employees before positions open

Twin City Hardware (TCH) is one of many Minnesota companies that has struggled to find qualified workers. But in the last few years, the Oakdale-based manufacturer of doors, frames, hardware and security-related products has adopted an innovative approach and experienced startling success.

Last spring, reports MinnPost, “TCH launched a program that aims at recruiting new employees for potential positions—by hiring them before there are even job openings.”

In addition to contending with a tight job market, TCH has faced a special barrier to workforce development: Its niche in the construction field is highly specialized, and few people teaching in the construction field know much about it, according to MinnPost.

So in 2017, the company designed an eight-week program that offers new employees

the skills necessary to thrive [at TCH], which has various positions in multiple departments such as welding, woodworking, engineering, project management and customer service.

During the training, the employees gain general and specific skills as they perform entry-level tasks for different departments. They can then transition into actual jobs when someone retires or quits, or if new positions are created.

“Knowing that this industry is not something that people have experience in, we’ve decided we need to go out and find people,” Matt Oberlander, TCH’s operations manager, told MinnPost. “Once they’re here, we train them and find a spot for them. That way, we don’t have to start over every time we’re on a short time frame.”

The new eight-week program builds on a more traditional recruitment effort the company began three years ago. In that effort, TCH started working closely with local colleges, including Dunwoody College of Technology, Saint Paul College and the University of Minnesota.

“Most schools don’t teach what we do,” said Oberlander. “You go to school for construction management and you learn how a building goes up and all the different subcontractors that work on it. But they never really talk about doors, frame, and hardware.”

In 2015, TCH decided to change that, MinnPost reports:

Oberlander and his team embarked on a campaign…to reach out to career training programs at community colleges and universities in the Twin Cities, giving students glimpses of what TCH does and inspiring faculty members to create classes that expose students to some of the skills the company needs.

TCH managers are now serving on advisory boards at nearby higher education institutions to encourage them to create courses that develop the skills the company needs. MinnPost provides the details:

In these meetings, Oberlander said, he realized that it’s not just professionals in the construction industry who are less familiar with the company’s work: architects also “don’t know anything about” the field and the special skills needed to produce doors, frames and hardware.

So Oberlander made it his mission to put the information about the need for those skills before college students, school administrators and his counterparts on advisory boards.

“For us, we get a good exposure and a couple of candidates out of it,” he said of the outreach initiative. “For colleges, students get a better overall picture of the construction process and some of the other little pieces.”

TCH is also working on a plan to donate equipment to some community colleges as part of its campaign initiative. The effort is aimed at enhancing the skills of students interested in learning how to install doors or fix closers.

TCH has “seen a radical improvement in its hiring process” as a result of its college recruitment and internal eight-week training program, according to MinnPost.