A sharp focus on training is paying off for Intek Plastics Inc.

Mechanical aptitude assessments, employee-driven promotions and pay raises, and an emerging leader program are just some of the hiring and workforce development practices undertaken at the Hastings, Minn.-based profile extruder to lure and keep new talent.

The company specializes in custom profiles for construction, fenestration, hydroponics, lighting and refrigeration applications. Intek’s coextrusion capabilities enable it to extrude four dissimilar materials into one multidurometer profile for different combinations of impact resistance, color, stiffness and weatherability. Think about the bumpers that go around checkout counters of major retailers, weatherstrips for walk-in freezers, product trays, and LED lighting covers and structures.

With estimated annual sales of $60 million, Intek ranks No. 61 among pipe, profile and tubing extruders in North America, according to Plastics News‘ latest ranking.

Founded in 1961, Intek first was focused on extruding weatherstripping, jambliners, polycarbonate roller tracks and glazing beads for the window and door market. When the housing bubble popped and the Great Recession followed, Intek lost work and workers — but not direction. Company officials diversified into lighting, refrigeration and hydroponics and increased efforts to build back its workforce and retain it.

“We haven’t had a layoff since 2008; we learned our lesson,” Nate Becker, one of Intek’s two training and development specialists, said in a phone interview.

Intek doesn’t have much absenteeism or turnover either.

“When I started doing this job four years ago, we were in double digits for turnover,” Becker said. “Now when we run the hard numbers, the absentee and turnover percentages, which are month-to-month calculations, have consistently been around or below 2 percent.”

Becker said this tracks well below the national overall average of turnover in manufacturing, which is currently at 47.2 percent so far in 2023.

Intek has been taking more steps to vet prospective hires, offering free tuition and adding apprenticeships. There’s also a program that allows employees to level up to higher-paying positions every few months.

Intek’s successful hiring and retention practices earned it the 2023 Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award from the Southfield, Mich.-based manufacturing association SME.

The ongoing workforce crisis in manufacturing motivated SME to document, celebrate and share best practices with others looking to make talent development a core strategic pillar, according to Jeannine Kunz, SME’s chief workforce development officer.

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