Forward Wayne County is focused on Education this August. We visited Nixon Tool Co. Inc. in Richmond, Indiana. We interviewed Scott Nixon about the importance of trade schools, apprenticeships, and how Nixon Tool has adapted to a new workforce while supporting students in trade education!
Why do you feel trades are important?
“Well, the trades are important because they’re the foundation of our economy. Not just machine trades, but electronics, heating and air conditioning, auto mechanics, and welding. All the trades and skills that we need in our economy to keep it going on a daily basis are coming out of trade schools. Somebody has to do the work, and it takes a lot of know-how to do that.
Now, I’m not saying that college is a bad thing, but it isn’t for everybody, and it takes a good balance of skilled people in a lot of areas to keep our economy balanced and functioning.”
Why do you feel that it’s important for Nixon Tool to support local career centers and training programs?
“Without those career centers, companies would be trying to figure out how to get a start in training. Whereas, when you have these kinds of schools in your area, you identify people who are already interested in your trade.
As they go through school, they become invested in the idea of doing what your company does for a living. They receive two years of training in high school, which is very attractive to an employer.
By the time they receive their certificate from the US Department of Labor, they know it’s been a long time coming.”
“Employees go through a two year Associates degree program as part of the apprenticeship program at Nixon Toll. Students that work at career centers come in with a huge advantage, because many of those programs are dual credit.”
“To complete an apprenticeship program, you have to complete 8,000 hours of machine time. If you do the math, that’s about four years of regular time, 40 hours a week.
Some career center students work over the summer, and those hours count towards the 8,000.”
What are some of the benefits of hiring younger workers, and how do they fit in with the rest of the team?
“Well, most of our older generation has retired, but we still have a few left who are willing to train. As long as the students want to learn and be part of the team, the older workers don’t have a problem. It’s when a student shows that they don’t care or is disrespectful that there’s an issue.
But I tell the young guys up front that the older workers are going to be part of their success. Nobody can do this without help. Everybody helps somebody along the way.”
Besides an involvement with the local career centers, how else is Nixon Tool involved in the community?
“I’m not necessarily as involved in things as my mother and father were, but we do like to sponsor things that we feel are beneficial to the manufacturing world.
I’m also on a lot of advisory committees, because I think that’s important. As the older generation of toolmakers were retiring, I found that if I didn’t spend my time in a beneficial way for Nixon Tool, then we were going to be putting time and resources into things that weren’t benefitting Richmond and Wayne County.
It’s been a struggle, but it’s paid off in the long run!”
What kind of opportunities do your employees have for support as they receive their training?
“The Nixon Family Scholarship was started by my mother and father to help provide scholarships to students seeking extra training.
Nixon Tool Company doesn’t own the scholarship, but there are programs to help young people have their school paid for, like Next Level Jobs or a SkillUp grant. Nixon Tool picks up the cost of tuition, whatever those programs won’t cover.
The Nixon Family Scholarship is one of many resources available to help students excel in their field. It really shows how much my parents believe in the trades.”
Why is it important for Nixon Tool to support vocational training and an apprenticeship program?
“Well, there are quite a few reasons it’s important.
The thing that we’re finding is that, our customers, which are mostly American based, are having a hard time placing their work. If they can’t find people in America to produce what they need, they’re going to go overseas. It’s happened already because other countries have prepared themselves and raised their skill levels to meet the challenge. So, having skilled people to do the work helps us stay competitive and keep customers.”
How has Nixon Tool’s engagement with the community benefitted the business as a whole?
“When I bought the company from my father in 2005, I was scared, you know? I knew what to do because my father had done a good job training me. But still, you’re in a position where you’re either successful and you put all of what you have into it, or you’re going to fail.
The one thing I believe in is that successful businesses are built because of perserverance and the want and desire to succeed. If you don’t have that, then you don’t have the first ingredient that it takes to make a successful workforce and company.
The people understand that the company has to be successful. If they believe you can make a success out of it, then they’ll follow you to the end. And that’s what you have to have – a team of successful people.”
How can other organizations and sectors in Wayne County support local training programs and get involved?
“I’ve tried to get other companies involved in apprenticeship programs. Getting a US Department of Labor certified apprenticeship program means every employee that comes through your program has certified journeyman status. It attracts young people, and the interest is there!
We have our apprenticeship program in writing. It shows a student everything they need to reach a goal in four years. It shows what they’ll be making, what classes they’ll need to take – it’s all there. Not only is that attractive to a student coming out of high school, but the parents can read it. And, if you think a parent isn’t involved in that point, you’re wrong.
I had a high school Junior interested in working here, but his parents didn’t want him working over the summer. So, I told the student, ‘tell your parents Scott Nixon wants to meet them,’ and I gave them a tour of the shop.
Well, they accepted, I took them on a tour, and at the end the student’s mother asked how many hours their child will have to work. I said, ‘Well, whatever he wants to work.’ It’s not about how long he works, but the fact that he’s connected to a company that’s interested in what he’s doing! And, he ended up working 3 days a week, 5 hours a day that summer. He spent two months, had a ball, and he wants to come back and work.
We have to look at it long term. For students to want to come work, they have to be successful as a rounded person.”
If your organization is interested in establishing an apprenticeship program or learning more, visit the Indiana Department of Labor’s apprenticeship webpage to learn more.
You can learn more about Nixon Tool Co. Inc. on their website.