Employers | Future of Work | Workforce Development |

New Talent Pipelines for a New Economy | Tolmar, Inc.

By Mary Knight | Communications Specialist, CareerWise USA

As many business leaders know, hiring quality and diverse talent can be costly and time-consuming, especially in a recovering economy. Finding a more sustainable way to recruit employees is key to continuing to succeed.

Sylvia Robinson knows this well. 

As the communication and HR manager at Tolmar, Sylvia Robinson is responsible for developing the company’s talent pipeline and elevating its overall employer brand. When she was brought on four years ago, Robinson began researching what was happening across the state and in northern Colorado in terms of workforce development and labor trends—and what best practices she could implement to help Tolmar improve its talent recruitment strategies. 

Through her research, Robinson was connected with CareerWise Colorado and introduced to youth apprenticeship as a way to develop Tolmar’s talent pipeline. After deciding an apprenticeship program would be a good fit for the company, Robinson hired two manufacturing technician youth apprentices in 2019.

Fast forward to 2021; Tolmar has 16 apprentices and now offers two additional occupations prospective apprentices can apply for— quality assurance technician and maintenance technician.

“We’re excited to expand our program based on the success we’ve had with our initial apprentices,” said Robinson.

Based out of Windsor, Colo., Tolmar, Inc. is a pharmaceutical manufacturing company focused on the development, approval and commercialization of specialty pharmaceutical products for patients. As a vital business during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was crucial it continued production as its patient products remained in high-demand. Having additional team members through the CareerWise youth apprenticeship program enabled Tolmar to keep its production timelines consistent and dependable. As essential workers, the youth apprentices became key members of the team and remain so as the company continues to navigate the pandemic and a recovery economy. 

Because their skill sets and technical proficiencies grew so quickly, two of the company’s youth apprentices were hired on as full-time employees after only 18 months in their roles. And these former apprentices weren’t hired into just entry-level positions, they were hired into higher-level positions within the company because their skillset had grown exponentially during their time as apprentices.

“These youth apprentices are exemplary. They’re just getting started, but they are ready to contribute and that makes them a great addition,” said Robinson.

 

Production technician apprentice Marcus Burris works in the Tolmar manufacturing facility.
Production technician apprentice Marcus Burris works in the Tolmar manufacturing facility.

 

Robinson isn’t the only one who’s impressed by how quickly the younger employees learn and master their job duties. The full-time managers who supervise the high school apprentices are excited by the pace these students learn on the job. When apprenticeship openings are posted each hiring cycle, Robinson always receives more applicants than there are positions available, and the managers always ask her, “Can we just hire them all?”

Hiring youth apprentices not only helps young people gain on-the-job experience, but it also encourages better, more engaged performance from current employees. At Tolmar, it has been noticed by many full-time employees that adding young talent to the team brings overall performance up for both the students and the seasoned professionals in the organization.

“It brings a different dynamic that is positive for the whole team,” said Robinson.

As board chair of the NoCo Manufacturing Partnership, Robinson shares Tolmar’s youth apprenticeship program successes with leaders in the manufacturing industry regularly. 

One of the things she often hears from manufacturing companies who have not yet taken the leap to explore youth apprenticeship is that they are unsure of where to start. They don’t think they have the right personnel structure or support system in place to implement an apprenticeship program. She encourages companies to take the first step with CareerWise—an intermediary that is well equipped to help and provide support where needed.

“CareerWise brings all the structure and provides that scaffolding to help set the program up,” said Robinson.

The training CareerWise provides for supervisors and its administrative support to help launch and grow apprenticeship programs are what Robninson believes has made for a successful partnership for Tolmar.

“I think there’s a lot of promise in our future generation. And what’s exciting is we don’t have to wait; we don’t have to wait for them to graduate from high school or graduate from college,” said Robinson. “We can help them start their career now and that contributes to our business and to their career pathway.”

The need for improved and expanded talent recruitment, development and retention is something all businesses know is important. Youth apprenticeship is a tangible strategy to address workforce challenges. Unlike internship, youth apprenticeship is job training—designed to train an apprentice to be job-ready by its completion. 

“These students are full members of our team, making meaningful contributions to our business every day. We are literally hiring them into regular, full-time positions. It is a real talent pipeline,” said Robinson.