To give you insight into the companies that recruit TWS graduates, we spoke with Leah R. Jaeger, Human Resources Generalist, with Marmen Inc. in Brandon, South Dakota.
Thanks for your time, Leah. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I got lucky and scored my dream job right out of college. I went to South Dakota State University and graduated in August 2013. I started with Marmen that month, so I’ve been here just over six years now.
Please give us an overview of what Marmen does.
Marmen is a French-Canadian company that was started in Quebec in 1972. We are a sub-contractor for many different clients. We basically build whatever our clients need. We specialize in large parts, large machines and large towers. We like to do things that are challenging, that not everyone can do. We do a lot of machining, fabrication and auxiliary services. We build things for hydropower, wind energy, oil and gas and turbines. We do projects for the military. We do so many different things as a company. Here at the Brandon, SD, plant, which opened in 2013, we build the bases for wind towers.
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How long has the relationship between Marmen and TWS been in place?
My first visit to Tulsa Welding School was in June 2016. I flew to the Houston campus, then on to Tulsa. I’ve also visited Jacksonville a couple of times. We’ve had the most luck with Houston recently, but I do stay in touch with all three campuses.
Do you attend career fairs?
I have been to a couple in Houston. I have also done presentations, which I prefer because we see better results. We have also visited their high school welding competitions a couple of times. We had a table, and I brought a CWI with me to help judge the competition. We like to be as involved as we can. I usually visit the Houston campus two/three times a year. I’ve been twice this year since May.
What is your recruitment process?
We are very open to Skype interviews and hiring from all over the country due to the low unemployment rate in our area. If TWS students apply (when I’m not on a campus visit), we review their résumé and then I call to do an interview over the phone or Skype. Then we do online personality and aptitude testing. We do as much on a computer as we can. Then if we are happy with all that, we check references, possibly do a second Skype interview, and from there we make an offer. If I’m on campus, we try and do everything there. Then I come back to the plant, check their references, and make an offer.
No weld test?
I’ve taken a welding trainer to campus and done testing, but we discovered we don’t really need to. Many Tulsa grads will not do a weld test before we hire them. We really focus on our values at Marmen. Pride, innovation, teamwork, commitment and honesty are things I cannot teach. They either have them or they don’t. That’s what’s most important to us. Of course, we want them to be able to weld, but if they fit with our values, we are willing to invest in them. If their welding isn’t quite where we need it to be, we have set up a training program to get them there. But often Tulsa graduates don’t need it. Their welding skills are fine. We look to hire people with the best attitude and values and will train where is needed for oncoming team members.
How many TWS grads have you hired?
We are at 14, but I am offering another two positions this week, so hopefully 16! The first TWS grad I hired is still here, as are most of the grads I’ve hired. He now works where our most skilled welders work.
Are there good opportunities for progression with Marmen?
Absolutely. We have weld techs, lead welders, welder trainers, production supervisors and an entire quality department of NDTs (non-destructive testing) who inspect the welds. We have guys who joined as welders, who are now Level 2 NDTs. The longer people are here, the more they learn and progress. Marmen is always looking to the future, and we love to promote people from within, rather than outside.
What first convinced you to reach out to TWS?
One of my roles here is creating relationships and connecting with schools. I looked at the résumés we were getting, and I noticed lots from Tulsa Welding School. Honestly, I didn’t know there was a Houston or Jacksonville campus; I just thought Tulsa Welding School was in Oklahoma! I reached out to Tulsa, and then Houston campus reached out to me. In the end they connected me with the Tulsa campus.
What appealed to you about working with Tulsa Welding School?
When I saw that TWS students were graduating in different months of the year, I was intrigued. That’s what appealed to me as a recruiter. Welding students are graduating every six weeks. No matter what time of year I go there, there will always be a number of students graduating with the next month. That really appealed to me. We are limited by a May graduation date where we are located.
Does the hands-on time that TWS students get make a difference?
There certainly is a lot of hands-on in the training at TWS, and that shows. Just the size of the school, and the number of booths they have. The operation they have there is amazing. The instructors and Career Services team know what type of welding we do here. If it is somebody’s goal to work at Marmen, they know what they need to practice. Not that the classroom time isn’t important, because it definitely is, but getting your hands-on a welding machine and welding most of the week is huge.
Do you have a formal training program?
The first two weeks they are with our welding trainer in a booth learning to weld the Marmen way. From there, if we feel they are ready to go to the shop floor, they go into their position with a different trainer. They have a structured training book specific to their position, and that training lasts anywhere from eight to twelve weeks. If you are a welder at Marmen, you could be in one of many positions, so there are many different training books within welding.
What qualities do you notice in the TWS graduates you’ve hired?
Their attitude and work ethic stand out. They are hard workers! If they come to Marmen, because they have to move so far, they know this is what they really want. When they get here, they are ready to work, and they love overtime! They pick up the way we weld quickly. We emphasize quality, and we do non-destructive testing on every weld that leaves our shop.
Is there a probationary period?
No, they all start as welders. We honor their diploma. We’ve had good success starting TWS graduates as welders. There’s no probationary pay until you make it through your training. You are paid as a welder right out of school, even without a weld test. You are eligible for your first raise at your six-month review.
Do you have to work hard to sell people on the idea of South Dakota?
I joke every time that we are not out in the middle of nowhere driving covered wagons, I promise! There are lots of things to do, lots of people to meet. We offer relocation assistance and pay very well for our area; the cost of living is significantly lower than in Houston for example. Our package is very good, and our benefits are unbeatable. Marmen pays 95% of the monthly cost. If there are students who have had to pay for benefits at previous jobs, they know that paying only $4 a week for health insurance is a huge deal! But I won’t lie, I do have to do a little bit of a sell on the snow! But our welders work inside. They don’t have to work outside!
What advice do you have for students to be successful at TWS, and at Marmen?
Definitely be open-minded when you’re learning to weld and be open to constructive criticism. Know that your success is about your welding, but it is about more than that. It’s about who you are, having the right attitude and being honest. Everything you do in school—having a great attitude, good attendance, building relationships, showing up on time, getting good grades—is all going to reflect on you when looking for a job after school. Also, be open minded when it comes to your job search. See what’s out there and consider going somewhere you’ve never thought about going! We do have a lot to offer up here in South Dakota!