Producers, manufacturers ramping up workforce development efforts

By |  August 31, 2022

Skilled workers continue to be in short supply, and inflation is driving up wages and salaries. Aggregate industry stakeholders, in turn, are taking steps to not only find, but retain employees. During a discussion about inflation at the Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference, participants shared how they’re navigating ongoing workforce challenges. The discussion that follows was edited for brevity and clarity.

Ryan Layton John Deere


GEORGE REDDIN (FMI CAPITAL ADVISORS): One thing we’re seeing is the real challenge of finding drivers. There was a time when nobody wanted to own trucks and have drivers. Now, many people are bringing some of that trucking in-house, and they’re recruiting people and paying for their training and certification to be CDL drivers. That’s been a differentiator for some of them.

RYAN LAYTON (JOHN DEERE): Traditionally, we’ve been located in Iowa, Illinois and the Quad Cities area. With the vast shift to more technology within our machines and business, we’ve seen a lot of flexibilities [in terms of] where we’re located. We’ve opened offices in Chicago, Austin and the Bay Area to keep going after that technology talent. It’s not always the easiest sell to get software engineers to come to Des Moines. It’s a little bit easier in Austin or the Bay Area.

MARGO LOPEZ (OGLETREE DEAKINS): One thing I see among my clients is the idea of a well-being-focused culture to attract and retain employees. I hear this from witnesses that I interview and the cases I deal with. A lot of them will praise their employer and company for their safety focus. Even if that doesn’t matter to your employees directly because they haven’t seen issues yet, you can be sure it matters to their family, their spouses and their parents. Those people have influence on their interest in staying with your company.

Johnnie Garrison


SEAN WEISIGER (CONN-WELD): For years, we’ve been reaching out to technical schools and local community colleges to try to find skilled labor and create that there. Now, we’re going a step further and going to high schools and middle schools. We’re doing field trips to the plant and trying to get them excited. We’ve had to get a lot more creative and do a lot more outreach in the community to improve that pipeline of employees, because it’s harder and harder to find not only CDL drivers, but welders. It’s almost impossible.

JOHNNIE GARRISON (SUPERIOR INDUSTRIES): In the post-COVID era of people working, I think people have shifted a bit to quality of life. They want to maybe get to their kid’s baseball game and drop their kids off at school before they come in. So, employees that we worked 55, 60 hours a week are now asking for four 10-hour shifts. We have more remote employees today than we’ve ever had. I think as an industry we need to do a better job of pointing out that this is a great industry to work in and its good paying jobs; that it’s okay to work in a quarry or work on equipment and be at peace with that.

VINNIE ROCCO (AMCAST): I was having a conversation about how to make the industry more interesting for Gen Z or the younger generation. How do you retain employees? How do you first become an attractive company in an industry that’s kind of unknown or foreign to a lot of people? Something that’s big for AMCAST is company culture. It’s making people feel that they have an important role, or empowering them to do more than just a job every single day where it’s the same thing.

JOHN SCEPANIAK (WM. D. SCEPANIAK): It’s scary when you have millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and two 22-year-olds are at the helm. If given the right amount of guidance and patience, it’s paid dividends for us. That’s what I see when I bring people in across the desk for a job interview. They don’t want to work for a soulless corporation. They want to work for companies that hear their voice, as well as where they can have a direct impact on the decisions that are made on-site and with the trajectory of the company.

Vinnie Rocco AMCAST


There are instances when I’ll be on a site looking at something six to eight months ahead, and I’ll just bounce it off of a kid that started with me three weeks ago. He’ll give me an insight that I would have never come up with myself. I’m a big advocate for the youth. I’m very positive about the young workforce.

KEATON TURNER (TURNER MINING GROUP): We see the labor challenge as three things: recruiting, training and retaining. A lot of people are pretty good at training. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but recruiting is hard.

I bet if you polled all of our field employees – operators and laborers – about half of them would never even have heard of Martin Marietta or Vulcan [Materials]. These are huge market cap companies that market to their customer really well, but from an employer-brand perspective, these companies, in my personal opinion, aren’t marketing [to] candidates.

Attracting people to the industry is a little bit difficult because mining is historically a big, old, scary, dark industry. But I think some of the biggest companies in mining don’t do anything to help their employer brand. I think people struggle with retaining employees because we sell a dream.

Of course someone’s going to leave for the almighty dollar, but what we’re selling is a dream. You can come here and jump up the totem pole quickly because there is no seniority list. We can have a 24-year-old kid who wants to work circles around the guy who’s been doing it for 20 or 30 years and is complacent. As long as he’s showing he’s safe and productive and has a good attitude, we’re going to jump him up quickly.

Featured photo: izusek/E+/Getty Images

Comments are closed