Author Archives: Ridgely Dunn

Ep. 129 – Recruiting Long Term Shop Employees, with Bill Cox (Part 2)

By Noah Graff

In part 1 of my interview with Bill Cox, owner of Cox Manufacturing in San Antonio, Texas, Bill talked about the power of his company’s robust apprenticeship program.

But how does Cox Manufacturing get so many employee candidates, while most machining companies are dying to get any job applicants? Answer—the company has built a strategic recruiting program.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Some of the company’s strategies for finding new employees are simple common sense, such as keeping good records of everyone who has applied to the company, which Bill says some companies actually fail to do. Cox Manufacturing also posts a large company sign advertising jobs available, which is visible from the highway to grab the attention of potential employees.

The company also likes to find new employees via referrals from current employees who often bring in job candidates who fit the company’s culture. It offers bonuses to employees when their referrals remain at the company for one month, six months, and a year.

Several years ago, Bill became the founding chair of an organization of manufacturers in his area, called the Alliance for Technology Education in Applied Math and Science (ATEAMS). Initially, the organization sponsored tours for students to visit the area’s manufacturing companies with the hope it would attract them to working in the manufacturing industry. After a short time, the organization realized that instead of giving tours to students, it was more effective to give tours to local high school teachers who could then promote careers in manufacturing to the students. Prior to COVID-19, the program had become so popular it had a waiting list. Bill says most of the teachers have never been inside a manufacturing facility before, so they often are amazed when they get tours of state of the art shops like his. I asked Bill if guidance counselors also come on the tours. He said unfortunately most of them have not been receptive to promoting careers in manufacturing but he hopes that will change one day.

Bill said one of his employees who surprised him the most was a middle-aged woman who prior to working at Cox Manufacturing had spent many years in the health care field. She started at the company deburring and inspecting parts but then applied to its apprenticeship program. He said the company was hesitant to hire her because in the past they have not had the most success hiring people trained in other fields, but she persisted, so the company gave her a shot. As an apprentice she excelled and progressed much faster than a lot of her younger male peers. In 90 days she was setting up CNC machines. 

Bill remains wary of people already making good money in other careers who apply to work at his company. In the past, the company invested in several employees who stayed there a little while, but left when more lucrative opportunities became available.

Cox Manufacturing has a policy of not admitting candidates to its apprenticeship program if they are fully trained in a field where they can make more money and jobs are available. The aerospace industry often has a lot of layoffs, so in the past, aircraft mechanics came to work at Cox Manufacturing but then left when their more lucrative previous jobs again became available. The company has had similar experiences with employees who previously worked in the oil industry. 

Bill’s advice for manufacturing companies who want to build their workforce is to think about their long term future. He says companies should develop in-house training programs and start recruiting young people even when they don’t need new employees. They should not hire employees out of desperation who are not compatible with a long term success strategy.

As I do with many guests, I asked Bill what he thinks of when hears the word “happiness.” He told me happiness means fulfilling one’s God given purpose, which is why when his company hires a person it tries to make sure the job is aligned with who they are and who they are designed to be.

Question: How do you make sure employees stay long term?

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Goodbye to the Soul of the Team

By Lloyd Graff

I vowed not to write so often about baseball and the Cubs, but this is about Anthony Rizzo, the soul of the Cubs team that won the 2016 World Series, being traded last week to the New York Yankees for the last 60 games of the 2021 season. 

The Cubs received two Minor Leaguers, decent prospects from the lower Minors, for a young man who symbolizes the magic of the game. Anthony Rizzo graduated from Parkland High School in Fort Lauderdale. After 17 students were killed in a shooting there, he went back to console the student body. 

Anthony Rizzo is a very good ball player, but his value to the Cubs and the Major Leagues is who he is as a person. Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 18 years old, one year out of high school, while playing in the Boston Red Sox minor league system. He underwent six months of grueling chemotherapy in 2008 before he received the great news that he was in remission. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in 2010 and then traded a year later to the Chicago Cubs.

In Chicago, his ebullient personality became a symbol of the team when they were awful, then rebuilding, then blossoming into a contender in 2014 and 2015. He caught the final out in the 2016 World Series in Cleveland.

Rizzo established a family foundation for pediatric cancer in 2012, which was a rare philanthropic deed for a 21-year-old cancer survivor, but even more important was that he became a volunteer at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. 

His family’s foundation also donated $3.5 million to Lurie in 2017.

Anthony Rizzo, former Chicago Cubs first baseman

He was not a PR hound looking for exposure to enhance his image. Rizzo really spent time with the kids struggling with cancer. His smile lit up the floors, just like it did at first base when he would kibbutz with the opposing players, umpires, and coaches. Whoever he could connect with.

Anthony Rizzo was so much more than home runs, picking up throws in the dirt, fearlessly rushing home plate to snatch a sacrifice bunt, or leading the league in getting hit by the pitcher while at bat. Anthony Rizzo was the most charismatic player in the game and a cancer survivor.

He signed a long-term contract with the Cubs soon after making his debut with the team. It was his insurance policy against another bout of cancer, but it also tied him up with the team for a long tenure because he was an underpaid star when he started hitting 30 homers a year.

As a fan, I love watching Anthony Rizzo because he loves playing the game like I love watching him play it.

Very few ballplayers generate pure joy, game after game, like Rizzo. And the Cubs traded him for a bag of balls for the last 60 games of the season. 

My daughter texted me that she was in mourning. She had come in from San Francisco to see a World Series game in 2016. We were planning on going to a game in two weeks when she would be back for a family vacation. She said now she doesn’t want to go with Rizzo gone. 

A player like Anthony Rizzo makes baseball more than just a game.

Question: What past sports trade made you sick?

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Ep. 128 – Building a Great Apprenticeship Program, with Bill Cox

By Noah Graff

Unlike the majority of machining companies right now, struggling to find enough skilled people to fulfill demand, Cox Manufacturing in San Antonio, Texas, boasts a continuous pipeline of new talent. In fact, Bill Cox, the company’s owner, says right now the company has a stack of applications for shop apprenticeships, of which he will pick an average of one for every 50 candidates.

Cox Manufacturing specializes in producing high volumes of turned parts. I’ve been to his facility several times and can vouch that it’s a treasure trove of some of the best European multi-spindle screw machines, CNC Swiss, and CNC turning centers. The company churns out 1.5 million parts every week, supplying sectors such as aerospace, firearms, defense, automotive and trucking, medical devices, and electronics.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Bill’s father, William Cox Sr., started Cox Manufacturing 65 years ago. When he suffered a fatal heart attack when Bill was 12 years old, Bill’s mother took the lead of the company. After Bill attended college for a few years he came back to run the company with his mother. At that time the company had 18 employees, today, 45 years later, it has 185. 

Twelve years ago, Cox Manufacturing put together an apprenticeship program that it registered with the Department of Labor. The program is made up of an education curriculum, much of it taken from the online platform Tooling U-SME, along with some proprietary content created by Cox Manufacturing.

The other component of the apprenticeship program is “on the job training,” which today people prefer to call “on the job learning” or OJL. Cox Manufacturing’s apprenticeship program spans over three years. Each year the company maps out requirements for the OJL and academic components it chooses from courses offered by Tooling U-SME. The company has implemented software to closely track the apprentices’ skillset progress. Training coordinators and supervisors facilitate the training.

Bill Cox, Owner of Cox Manufacturing

Every time employees graduate from a year in the apprenticeship program they get a pay bump and a bonus week of vacation. Apprentices training to run CNC machines start at a wage of $15 per hour, while those training on cam multi-spindles start at $16 an hour. Bill says the company pays apprentices more money to learn cam multi-spindles because the machines are more complicated and less “sexy” than CNC machines. Even with the higher starting wage, it is a challenge for Cox Manufacturing to get people to choose the path of training on the cam machines. Bill says some people try to learn the cam machines but can’t get get the hang of them, yet then they try to work on CNC machines and excel. I asked Bill if the company likes to cross train people to run both cam and CNC machines. He said it is not the company’s normal policy. He likens running different types of machines to playing both the violin and the saxophone. But, he admits, anybody who can run a cam multi-spindle can run a CNC, just not always the opposite.  

Apprentice candidates visit Cox Manufacturing three times before they are chosen for the apprenticeship program. They have to take a math test, which many people fail. It consists of 12 questions, including 2-place decimal addition and subtraction, along with three word problems. Candidates are also given an AcuMax Index personality profile to predict if they will work well in the company’s environment.

Bill says in as few as 90 days apprentices can do basic setups on a 5-axis Swiss machine. They will know metrology, how to read blue prints, change tools, make offsets, and install tooling. However, 90 days is not enough time for apprentices to learn to set up cam multi-spindles because the machines have no computers to make automatic adjustments and have so many more moving parts. 

Bill says that low wages is one contributing factor in young people not choosing manufacturing as a career, but the greatest reason for the shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing is that businesses haven’t invested enough in the development of their workforces.

Question: Are cam screw machines sexy or ugly?

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Hindsight is 2020

By Lloyd Graff

From a business standpoint these last 16 months have been one of the most fascinating and turbulent periods I have ever observed and dealt with. 

Last March we were entering the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a period of fear, doubt, and paralysis. Selling used machinery was almost impossible because the industrial economy was a mess. Business virtually shut down in April, employees were laid off or furloughed, and everybody wore a mask and watched TV. Making ventilators and gun parts was about all that was cooking, except cooking, which was hot because almost all restaurants were closed. 

I asked myself, Risa, and Noah how we would cope. 

My answer was to quickly let go of two employees who were obviously not needed. Neither were really bad employees, but one guy was unreliable as far as attendance was concerned, and the other was a perfectionist, which made him too slow when speed was needed. Letting them go would save over $100,000 a year, so it was not a hard decision when business was so awful.

A harder call was deciding whether I wanted to stay in business when I was losing money. I was 75 years old, my wife was recovering from heart surgery, and I had money in retirement savings to draw upon. Yet, I decided to stay in business because I liked the people I work with, I enjoyed the trading part of the business, and I could work from home quite effectively. I thought the pandemic would run its course and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would be successful.

The COVID cases kept rising, deaths were becoming scary, but at least in the machining world people were working in factories, and our primary customers were staying alive. It appeared highly likely the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would be successful and approved by the end of 2020.

Business woke up after the election. I closed the deal I had been working on for three years in the last week of 2020, which made an awful year look tolerable in the light of a miserable 10 months.

But for the first time in my business career, Graff Pinkert had no end of the year cash for employees. I regarded the 2020 losses as a personal and team defeat, despite people hanging together and working hard. 

The stock market’s stunning gains in 2020 were a bright signal that the absurdly low interest rates and the huge amount of money being pumped into the economy were indications of an impending turnaround if COVID-19 would cooperate.

Lloyd Graff at Graff Pinkert

I scrapped several machines in January that looked like they would never sell. My bank lending line was trimmed, but I still had money to buy inventory. Machinery looked cheap. Competitors appeared afraid or unable to buy. 

In early 2021, despite the January 6th Washington debacle and Trump’s recalcitrance to vacate the presidency, business was budding. The vaccines were released remarkably quickly and the machining economy began to accelerate like a sprinter at the Olympics.

I expected business to improve, but I was shocked by the first quarter and amazed by the second quarter. Even old cam multi-spindle screw machines were selling. Dinosaurs were awakening from the dead. 

I added overtime, hired one new full-time person, a summer employee, and two gig workers to provide extremely valuable skills. One of the gig workers was an electrician I had let go in April of 2020. As a full-time employee he wasn’t always fully engaged, but as a part-timer he was a star. 

Gig work, unemployment checks, and wiring refurbished homes suited him more than a full-time factory job. I also traded him a 2002 Toyota Avalon for hours worked, which enabled him to get to Graff-Pinkert without Uber. 

I also decided to raise the hourly workers by $4 per hour. This was partially to offset a dismal 2020, but also to reward them for a resounding 2021. It was also partly the Amazon effect. If Amazon, which is building several enormous distribution facilities within a few miles of Graff-Pinkert, could start at $15 per hour plus health care and other benefits, I figured I had to pay more. I hired two beginning laborers for $18.50 per hour to outbid Amazon. 

Labor is really a small part of our expenses, but it is crucial. I paid significantly more in bonuses to Rex and Noah, who were assuming an ever greater role in Graff-Pinkert. I paid off all of the company’s bank loans for the first time in decades. 

***

I expect the rest of 2021 will be very strong economically. More workers will start to enter the precision machining world if wages look attractive compared to restaurants, hotels, and low paying service work. 

Next year is cloudy. The pace of growth cannot continue at 8%. The recouping for 2020 will run its course. Inflation will come down. But I see the machining world improving for several years after very choppy growth for the past 20 years.

The future of the automotive industry is quite fuzzy to me at this moment. The enormous announced investment for non-gasoline cars is a huge bet on the public actually buying electric, which I see as quite iffy. If the stupid leaders of Volkswagen in Germany really plan to throw $35 billion Euros at electric, it stands a strong chance of failing.

In my business, I have placed my bet on good people and aggressive buying of what we call “sexy ugly” machines. Time will tell if they remain sexy to customers.

Question: What is the one thing you won’t forget from the last 16 months?

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Ep.127 – Creating a Successful Diverse Workforce, with Aneesa Muthana (Part 2)

By Noah Graff

Pioneer Service employs a diverse group of people—varying age groups and genders, African Americans, Latinos, and a few old white guys, too. Twelve of its 31-person workforce are women. The diversity provides the company with a great pool of talent and creates a special work environment.

Today’s podcast is part two of my interview with Aneesa Muthana, co-owner and president of Pioneer Service Inc., a thriving Swiss machine shop in Addison, Illinois.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Aneesa says that even with such a unique, diverse workplace, her company still deals with the problem of its people forming cliques, which can hurt their ability to work together.

Like in every organization, cliques emerge based on variables such as cultural backgrounds, job types, and seniority. Aneesa copes with this problem by demonstrating to her employees that she has equal respect for everyone. 

Aneesa Muthana of Pioneer Service Inc.

She likes to spend time with employees on the shop floor, devoting the same amount of her time to everyone—people of all job types, seniority, etc. She passes out water bottles on a hot days. She learns about people’s lives. She wants to show them that she cares about them and they aren’t just a number. She even tries to reveal some of her own vulnerability.

Aneesa says she recognizes that people naturally gravitate to others with similar jobs or backgrounds. What she wants is for employees to listen to each other with respect and cooperate when they come together in the huddle.  

She says her best employees almost always come from referrals by current or past employees, because employees who have already been successful at the company usually bring in people whose personalities and abilities fit with the company’s culture. 

I asked Aneesa if she had any advice for a machining company that was having trouble finding good people—a company unlike hers that didn’t have a base of strong employees who could bring in others like themselves.

She chuckled and suggested the company should join the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), of which she soon will be president. She says that peers in the organization guided her to modernize her shop in 2012 when the company had lost 90 percent of its business. She marveled at the unique cooperation the organization fosters amongst its members, who sometimes are direct competitors. 

Companies are capable of great things when people respect each other in the huddle.

Question: Do you wish your workplace were more diverse?

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The 2020 Olympics are Yesterday

By Lloyd Graff

I am a real sports enthusiast. Basketball, track, swimming, lacrosse. Bring it on. 

Yet I didn’t even know the Olympic Games were starting this Friday night. I couldn’t care less. 

Why is an avid fan, lover of sport, somebody who still reads the sports pages in the newspaper, so oblivious to the 12 million hours of Olympic TV coverage over the next 16 days? 

Because it is corporate, bureaucratized, and packaged. It is a Nike blur. It isn’t the games that started on a shoestring in 1896. It isn’t even the political games of 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were murdered in Germany. It isn’t the indefatigable Bob Costas, living on NoDoz as he somehow stayed on top of 50 Sports and 500 events.

Now it’s NBC and its 30 affiliate networks, including Fubu TV, Peacock and the Golf Channel. And who cares if the US plays Iran in basketball at midnight this Saturday. Even the mullahs will forget to watch.

The one thing we MUST remember about these games is who is wearing what footwear. It no longer really matters if the United States or Russia or China wins more gold medals. The only important issue is Nike versus Adidas in all of its permutations.

This is why I am so upset that the American Ninja Warrior semi-finals from the Tacoma Dome were shelved for a week to make room for Ivory Coast vs Germany Olympic soccer.

American Ninja Warrior is what the Olympics used to be. The athletes are real people, genuine amateurs. They have been practicing in local gyms and on improvised home designed and built equipment. They have no sponsors, most of them don’t even wear shoes when attempting to navigate the obstacles, and the seasoned competitors often fail to get past the first round. The participants root for one another. Many of them have other careers. Their personal stories are filled with trauma and tragedy, which makes us want to follow them year after year.

It is packaged television, and the obstacles are contrived to send the most Warriors into the water, but many of the obstacles are designed by devotees of the show.

Neither Nike or Adidas is a sponsor. Contestants sometimes have green hair and carry a few extra pounds. Women compete head-on with men. Gender is not an issue like in women’s weightlifting at the Olympics. 

American Ninja Warrior is apolitical. COVID-19 is not an issue. 

Fubu TV and Peacock can play backstroke all night for two weeks. Give me reruns of American Ninja Warrior. The 2020 Olympics start Friday night, but they are yesterday to me.

Question: What event do you care about at the Olympics?

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Ep. 126 – Creating a Successful Diverse Workforce, with Aneesa Muthana (Part 1)

By Noah Graff

Several months ago, I called Pioneer Service Inc. when I noticed online they had a used Doosan for sale. The woman who answered the phone beamed with enthusiasm. She told me that she couldn’t wait to come to work every day because of how much she loved her job and the company she worked for.

So, for our current season about how machining companies find good employees, I knew I needed to interview Aneesa Muthana, a favorite past guest on the podcast, and the co-owner and president of Pioneer Service Inc. What is Aneesa’s secret? What is in the Kool-Aid she is passing out to employees on the shop floor that gives them such passion for their jobs?

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Pioneer Service is a Swiss machining company in Addison, Illinois, established in 1990 by Aneesa’s uncle. Aneesa joined her uncle as a partner in 1993, on the condition that she would assume full control of the operations of the company. When she came to the company it was an old school screw machine shop filled with Brown & Sharpes. In the last seven years the company has replaced its Brownies with a fleet of high-tech CNC turning equipment—mainly Star CNC Swiss lathes and a few turning centers. Aneesa says she particularly likes the output and reliability of the Stars. The company makes parts for many sectors such as medical, aerospace, biotech, and electric vehicles such as TESLA.

Aneesa grew up working at M & M Quality Grinding, a centerless grinding company her parents started. She says that at 11 years old, while cleaning tanks on the shop floor, she fell in love with the production business. Yet despite making a very good living at her family’s company, she left her job at age 23 when she felt she could could no longer progress in her career there. 

When the Covid-19 crises hit in 2020, Aneesa was faced with the dilemma of whether to furlough employees when parts orders were put on hold. Despite some questioning from her management team, she chose to keep producing parts at current quantities, rather than furlough employees or cut overtime. She didn’t want to create instability in her 30-person workforce, and she anticipated correctly that orders would eventually resume. 

Like many machining companies in 2021 Pioneer Service is having a great year, but despite having held onto her employees during the crises Aneesa says she is always searching for new good people and always has to try hard to keep the ones the company currently has.

She finds some new employees on LinkedIn but says the best ones usually are referrals from current or former employees. Pioneer Service pays competitive wages, starting at $17 per hour, and Aneesa says she is committed to creating a company culture where employees feel respected and valued, so it sometimes surprises her when employees are enticed to leave by competitors who offer very modest pay raises or perks. 

Aneesa says sometimes applicants with experience seem to check all the right boxes for a position, but if she senses they will not treat coworkers well she will not hire them. 

She says she is committed to having all her employees feel like their voices are being heard and that they belong. Half of Pioneer Service’s employees are women, and the company also employs some African Americans, a long underrepresented group in the machining industry. A workplace where people feel comfortable and accepted is vital to maintain such a diverse group.

Aneesa has recently become a payed professional speaker, and often she is asked to speak on behalf of women in manufacturing. I asked her if she gets tired playing the role of “the woman advocating for women in manufacturing.” 

She says she likes to talk about women in manufacturing to empower them. She wants to educate and inspire women leaders to participate in male dominated industries. Also, inspiring women does a service to society and the economy because it brings more quality people into the workforce. 

Aneesa also wants expose other groups besides women to opportunities in manufacturing such as young people or people in the inner-city. She says to be successful in a profession people need to feel like they belong, so it is up to business owners and leaders to make people feel that way.

She tells audiences that although machining is a male dominated industry, she hangs with the guys, and they’re not monsters. She says women can’t portray men as villains and then expect them to accept them. She says it’s good for people to talk about their pain, but everyone, no matter what background, has gone through pain, so it’s important not to feel like a victim and blame others.

Question: Did your company keep all its people during the pandemic? Why?

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Stuck in the Mitt

By Lloyd Graff

My plan was to write about the machining world. “Nuts and bolts tonight, dad,” Noah nudged me before I left work. “Leave the baseball,” was how he ended the sentence. 

When I got home, I read a little of the Wall Street Journal looking for inspiration. I accidentally fell into a column by Bob Greene, who once wrote brilliantly for the Chicago Tribune. The article was about giving a Rawlings baseball glove to a friend to connect him with his youth and cheer him up. It was a beautiful piece, and I immediately wanted to share it with friends and family. 

I was curious about what happened to Bob Greene, whose work is rarely seen these days. I Googled him and found a long article about the rise and fall of the brilliant Bob Green, my contemporary and a much better writer than I ever could hope to be. 

Greene has evidently had a tough personal life after reaching the top of journalism and writing several acclaimed books. His wife died, he has been accused of being a womanizer, and he is in pain about some of his most acclaimed pieces. An article he wrote after 11 Israelis were killed at the 1972 Olympics is still on many people’s refrigerators. It was a classic piece of personal journalism, the kind I often attempt to emulate. Yet Greene says he wishes he never wrote it.

Greene often writes seemingly heartfelt, sentimental articles, yet later talks about them with cynicism. He writes from his gut, then rejects them as he descends into anger and despair. 

Who is the Bob Greene I love to read? After reading this long article about the man whose writing stands out as something to be cherished and shared, I knew I should share it with others who I knew would also adore it.

I understand the Bob Greene question. Is he being honest in his work? Is he writing from the heart or just to make it publishable? Is Bob Greene an amazing writer or a phony–both? Can somebody be a jerk one day and a saint the next? Do I really care whether Bob Green is a miserable human being if he can write with such humanity that he can move me to tears?

After all, I don’t really know who Bob Greene is as a person. Maybe he has come out of a dark period in his life and he really is the person who gifted the Rawlings baseball glove, and then he bought one for himself. He writes that the glove is being shaped now with neatsfoot oil. 

We all go through tough periods in our lives and doubt our own sincerity. Bob Greene, I love your writing. I have loved it for 40 years. I’m going to buy a friend a mitt, too. Thank you so much for your 500 wonderful words.

Question: Do you care if someone is a jerk if they do great work?

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Ep. 125 – Hiring Ex-Felons, with Kathryn Shibelski

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast I interviewed Kathryn Shibelski. Kathryn is a second chance hiring advocate. Her firm, KES HR Consulting, works with companies who are considering hiring incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people. The job candidates have often been convicted for drug offenses, white collar crimes, sex crimes, and even murder. 

Obviously, the idea of hiring people with criminal records could seem quite risky for a number of reasons, but according to Kathryn, second chance hires can thrive in the right work environment and even surpass the performance of employees with no criminal background.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.


Main Points


Strengths of Formerly Incarcerated People

In various areas around the United States there are programs in prisons that train inmates in trades such as machining. 

Kathryn says formerly incarcerated people are often the most devoted, loyal employees. One reason for this is their gratitude for the opportunity just to have a job. Many ex-felons have few options for employment, so its extra important for them to hold onto their jobs, both for supporting themselves and to fulfill parole obligations. 

Also, formerly incarcerated people often come into jobs with a unique set of skills. In prison people are forced to be resourceful. They have to solve daily practical problems using limited resources that people on the outside take for granted.

 

Other Reasons for Second Chance Hiring

Companies who employ second chance hires can receive tax breaks through the work opportunity tax credit. Also, Federal bonding programs protect employers against losses caused by the fraudulent or dishonest acts of at-risk bonded employees.

Finally, Kathryn encourages companies to hire second chance employees because it helps communities end a cycle of repeat offenses that often occur when people are released from prison.

 

Second Chance Hiring Obstacles

One of Kathryn’s main services is helping companies with on-boarding second chance hires.

Often formerly incarcerated people lack resources that many of us take for granted, such as a bank account, transportation to get to work, and a decent place to live. Companies who hire them have to be ready to help their new employees cope with these challenges.

One of the greatest challenges for companies to successfully hire second chance employees is getting their current workforce to buy in. Kathryn is a proponent of employers keeping an open mind to people with all types of criminal backgrounds, but she says that every company needs to choose for themselves which candidates they feel comfortable working with. Everyone at a company has to be on board for second chance hiring, not just the top managers. Often at least one individual at a company has had a bad past experience with a certain type of offender, and this may cause it to rule out many candidates immediately.

Another criterion companies need to consider is how long a candidate was incarcerated. People incarcerated for a decade or more often become institutionalized, making them prone to emotional issues.

Kathryn admitted to me that even she has her own personal difficulties regarding certain types of offenders, but she still firmly believes that everyone deserves a second chance to turn their lives around. 

When reasoning with people who are resistant to second chance hiring, Kathryn suggests to them to think about their own friends or relatives who have made past mistakes or had poor luck navigating the U.S. criminal system. Have they made it back successfully?

To get in touch with Kathryn and learn more about her services, the best way is to go to her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathrynshibelski/.

Question: Would you consider hiring an ex-felon?

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Prison of Perfection

By Lloyd Graff

Major League Baseball is facing a major league problem. Its audience is bored and fading away.

For a fan like me, this is a minor problem. I love my team, the Chicago Cubs, but if they are awful and boring, I can switch to Netflix, reading, or a podcast for entertainment. But for the baseball industry and the gambling community, which make their very profitable livelihoods from fans like me, baseball and boring cannot afford to go together for long before it really starts to hurt.

From an entertainment standpoint, it is not too hard to figure out why the sport is shrinking. Major League Baseball has become the prisoner of its own perfection. A game with 20 strikeouts is becoming commonplace. Pitchers routinely throw in the mid 90s, and many are stunningly accurate. A top pitcher in today’s game is aiming his pitches not at the center of the plate, but at a corner of the strike zone, 4″ by 4″. 

Good scouting and computer records have identified hitters’ weaknesses. If you combine tremendous velocity with computerized analysis and superb accuracy, plus catchers’ well-honed ability to “frame” pitches, deceiving fallible umpires by subtle movements of their gloves, you end up with strikeout after strikeout.

Another addition to the pitching arsenal is “spin rate.” Again, the computer mavens are spoiling the game by analyzing the effect of spin and the movement of pitches, which shrewd pitchers and their coaches translate into manipulation of pitches, to accentuate hitters’ weaknesses. Add in sticky materials, which pitchers can hide in their scalp or uniforms, and you get even more pitch movement, which fosters batter failure.

Hitters have not solved the problem of pitcher mastery to bring more balance to the game, partially because of their tendency to overswing to pad their home run statistics, for which the teams have rewarded them by paying huge bonuses. 

Because taking walks is infrequently lauded by management, players are now swinging without remorse, hoping for a lucky long ball. The result is, again, more hitting failure. It used to be that a 200 hitter was banished to the minor leagues. Today, he may bat cleanup if he hits more than one homer per week.

Jacob deGrom has a 0.95 ERA in 2021, CREDIT: USA TODAY

Jacob deGrom has a 0.95 ERA in 2021

Add in dynamic relief pitching, which features pitchers who specialize in throwing 100mph and pitch only one inning. With starting pitchers generally limited to 100 pitches maximum, the bullpen becomes extremely important. The “closer,” who pitches the ninth inning, is often the highest paid pitcher on the team. Put it all together and you have the formula for “boring ball.” 

The leaders in the sport have just begun to figure out how baseball is killing itself with its precision and velocity on the mound. Pitchers are now inspected after every inning by the umpire, checking them for sticky stuff. It does not seem to be changing pitcher-batter balance yet.

Some folks are proposing that the pitcher’s mound be lowered or even moved back a few feet. Others want robots to call balls and strikes to combat umpire fallibility in the age of spin and velocity.

These changes are probably necessary to combat the hitter failure rate. Every sport needs to change with the times. Basketball added the 3-point shot, and football has made it harder to crush the quarterback because people want to see Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, not some pretender. 

Sports needs to be fun, with a balance between offense and defense. When hitters rarely swing successfully, even fans who have loved the game for decades, tune it out.

Question: Are you losing interest in baseball?

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