Attracting Employees Through Apprenticeships with Miranda Martz
Connect with Miranda Martz
Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan. Welcome to the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. I'm here today with Miranda Martz. Miranda is a Pre-apprenticeship Coordinator for the Manufacturers Association. She started as a journeyperson machinist and is committed to the manufacturing industry. Miranda, welcome to the show.
Miranda Martz: Thanks, Lisa. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Lisa Ryan: Absolutely. Please share with us about your background and what led you ultimately to commit to your manufacturing career.
Miranda Martz: It's been an interesting journey and not one that many people have had. Many people like listening to my journey because it's very odd. I grew up in Hannover, Pennsylvania, the snack capital of the world. When I was younger, I wanted to work on cars for a living. I worked with my dad on the weekends. I went underneath the car with him. He showed me how a car works. I grew up with a bunch of mechanics, so that's where I got into loving working on machines and with machinery, even at an age I didn't know what it was.
I started there in high school. I never did good in high school, so that four-year college degree wasn't for me either. I never even thought I would graduate from school. I went to a place called Mannheim central, so it was a very Ag-centric school. I was either pushing towards going to ag or going to a four-year college and getting my college degree. I met my counselor maybe once or twice. That was odd to me to pick a career for the rest of my life.
I thought I had talked to them, but they didn't know me well. They knew I wanted to work on cars, so I went to the art Institute of Pittsburgh for industrial design technology, and I did the auto track. It's no surprise, probably, but I was the only female to do that, so that has its challenges. But unfortunately, I was there for a year, and it got too expensive because I ended up paying for it myself. So I had to drop out. It wasn't something that was for me. I found that the four-year college route wasn't for me, and it was way too expensive. I couldn't pay for it, so I came home and immediately got a job.
But it was at a gas station. I worked there like three years, and I knew I needed to do something else. It wasn't something that could sustain me for the rest of my life. I needed more money, so I started looking into different things and was offered a job by a friend at the time at a place called electron energy corporation.
I went on to be a Hone operator. My first machine was a honing machine, making precision holes.
From there, I became a machinist III. I worked up through the company. I learned one machine after another. It was something that I could healthily express myself. I was good at it. I knew every single machine that I could in that area. I worked in the ring cell, and it was something that I learned one machine after another. It clicked for me. I thought this was what I meant to do. This is what I'm good at it. It was a way for me to express myself.
I wanted more. Over five years, I gathered enough information to be a machinist three at that company, and then after five years, I moved on in my career into the CNC machining world. I got exposed to my first machine – a Hoss CNC. I took CNC classes one through Levels one through three with House, including the programming classes and the turning classes on the laser levels one and two.
I went to a company called tape towers. Many people know them as Droplets, but they do staging for the entire world through the largest staging company in the world. I went into their machine shop and learned about one of their CNC machines. It was the same thing. It was easy for me. I learned a lot. I was on one machine, and I couldn't get enough, and I loved it. I started showing them that I could run two machines simultaneously, but I could set up the machines and then program the machines. Within the six years at that company, I became a lead machinist.
I was the only woman in the machine shop for them, so that came with its challenges, but it was great I got to custom make things and express myself in that way. After that, I got the opportunity to become a journeyman or machinist. Through them, I was offered to go to school, and I did my apprenticeship at the Manufacturers Association.
I finished my journeymen in 2020. In June of 2020, I got offered the position of helping to teach their CNC classes at the Manufacturers Association at night. I support the teacher. His name is Bob, and I teach CNC levels one, two, and three in the evenings. I enjoyed that, and I got immersed in the teaching and training realms a little more.
I got into it when I taught the adult classes. I enjoyed it, and they had an opening for a pre-apprenticeship coordinator. I didn't know what that was currently. But I found out that it was helping to teach kids, and it was helping them learn the trades. This is something that I wish I had when I was growing up or had somebody to look up to me.
I wanted to let them know that what they want to do isn't stupid. It's not dumb, and it's worth the same as a four-year college degree. Suppose you want to be an apprentice. I didn't know what machining was until my late 20s. Manufacturing opened my world. It would have been a different way for me to get here. It called me because it's my passion to help kids and guide them into manufacturing and the trades if that's something they're interested in. That's how I got here.
Lisa Ryan: Well, and it's such an exciting journey. Let's break down a couple of parts of it. When people listen to the show, you are exactly who they want - somebody who is passionate about it, loves it and takes on the extra responsibilities of learning all the machines. They want workers who decide to take the extra step to go into the journeyperson program. Everything that you are doing is showing initiative. And yet, in a culture where we're looking for more women to get into the trades. You had your share of trouble. Not getting into a ton of detail, but if somebody is again listening to the show and looking for ways to connect not only with more females to bring them into manufacturing and machining. Once they get there, what would be the type of treatment or respect you expect.
Miranda Martz: Well, I grew up with it. We all know that discrimination exists because we wouldn't be talking about it if it didn't exist. I knew what I was getting myself into, but at the same time, I had to learn to shut that all out, not listening to what they were saying and what they were believing. I had to believe in my instincts as a person and know what was right for me. I believed in myself and knew where I was going. I was not to condone or like stand for the disrespect. I wish I had known when I first started.
Miranda Martz: I have my views and my own opinions. It doesn't matter who I am, where I am, or what I look like. It's how I do my job and how professional I am. If somebody doesn't appreciate that, then maybe that's not my company. That's not the company culture, and I'm sure that's not how the company wants them to react. If you're ever in that situation, think about what's best for you. I think a lot of women try and please other people. I know I did. When I was younger, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be part of this mold. You want to empower your women on the job. That's why I went into this trade. I keep that in my mind because you only need that one person. If you need that little bit of confidence, or you need that little bit of push, there's that one person that you can go and talk to who gives you that confidence like the look, you are doing a great job, like you, don't have to go above and beyond, or do ten times more work or, to try and prove yourself, because what you're doing.
You're proving yourself already. Focus on yourself. Focus on the excellent job that you're doing and try your best. I hate when people think other people's opinions make them their reality. You are your person. Do what's best for you. Don't let other people's views or people bring you down for who you are. I've been there, and I know what happens.
I know the horrible things people can say to you and try and do to you to trick you into making you think that you're not worthy or you're not good enough, but all that's crap. I wish I would have come into that knowing that as a younger person, but that's something, especially in my class, being a pre-apprenticeship coordinator and having so many kids. I'm talking to these kids and especially the young girls in the class. I'm creating an open environment where they can be honest and tell me what they face. For example, I'll wear a pink jumpsuit in the class because the machine doesn't care what I look like, as long as I give it what it needs. It will produce what I want it to produce, so that's something huge for me.
Lisa Ryan: When we also think about the fact of it's not necessarily, especially in today's market with the Labor shortage that we have of looking for somebody with all of the experience. What you want is that passion, that desires to learn - male or female - or anything else, it doesn't matter. It's looking for that person who has the commitment, who loves what they do. It's seeing that passion because you can always train on the skills.
We also want to get away from being away from judgments when it comes to what a woman can do versus what a man can do in a machine shop environment. If I've heard it time and time again in the welding industry, which is where I come from, that women make better welders.
Miranda Martz: Absolutely, we are more detail-oriented for sure. They're more dexterous with their hands. I hear it all the time from our member companies. We were a nonprofit we run from our members, and we're here for the community. They say we want our workers to show up and show up on time. Those are the two big asks by all these companies. It's not like, Oh, we need more men, we need more women like it's not that. They need people. We're in this massive crisis. I'm going to call it a crisis because, by the year 2030, we're going to have three million open manufacturing jobs worldwide. I want kids and young people, and even women or anybody that doesn't think that they can do it, but there are so many different things in manufacturing that they can do.
There's a common misconception about manufacturing and machining that it's a dirty, dusty environment - it's air-conditioned. There might be a shop around, and if you go and walk around these manufacturing facilities now, they're super clean, bright, well-lit, and air-conditioned. They're all automated.
Lisa Ryan: it's something that I want people to understand. The other important part you talked about is having a pre-apprenticeship and working with kids. Right now, so many people wait until kids get out of high school or get out of college or go to tech school. It works when you can get kids at the earliest age possible and use things like manufacturing day to go into the schools or have tours. When you work with the guidance counselors to bring them to walk into a clean, automated shop, it's not like when I was in the welding industry, which was everything your mother ever warned you about. So many people still have those preconceived notions. Talk to talk about that a little bit as far as your introduction. How are you awakening that passion? What conversations are you having?
Particularly with the girls, you have come through the program - how do you inspire them to follow in your footsteps.
Miranda Martz: I think, well, especially for the girl thing seeing me there, seeing me hearing about my journey and knowing that there's somebody that's been in the industry that looks like them, and has been through the things that they're going through. Having somebody to talk to you about it is huge. Having that representation is huge. I try my best in the classroom. I try to identify with the kids - I'm a big kid myself. You can see it on the back of a 3D printer.
I love what I do. I have a passion for what I do, I love making things and conceptualizing things, and I see that in the kids I see kids who want to get involved and get their hands dirty and make things. So I allow them the freedom to do that. I let them have the space; even if they don't like it, tell me if they don't like it. The whole point of having a pre-apprenticeship is taking up a pipeline into an apprenticeship and telling them that line of success and saying that if you don't want to go to a four-year college, that's okay, not to take that traditional path.
I want that to be gotten rid of. I don't want somebody to think that if they go to a trade school, they are less of a person than somebody who goes to college because that was a preconceived notion, especially what I had to do. Try and integrate, like all the manufacturing companies. There are 2500 and South-central Pennsylvania. We have over 400 companies that we work with that are members. I try and encourage them to come and talk to the kids. They do; they speak to the kids, and we take tours. I try and get them internships when they graduate high school.
So, when they go through a program, it's a two-year program or two-season program, and they get immersed and the introductory things that these companies need. We did ask the company what they're looking for. They're hiring people, so we do lean with the kids and solid works. I like using solid works. We make a race car with the kids, and they get to make their models, and they get the hands-on experience, but we try and make it as fun as possible and as relevant to them as possible. They're like, okay yeah, this is fun.
And then, when they grow older, they get to see, think, and say, " Yeah, I could be an engineer, or I could make this, or I can do that. That is the best feeling. What gets me through to the next season and the next kids is seeing their faces light up when they see something they made. I can see myself in them. So when I first made my first thing, it was something that made me feel good, and that gave me the fuel to want to keep going.
So now it's me saying the kids do that, so it came full circle for me, so that's the most remarkable part.
Lisa Ryan: And what conversations have you had with the parents of the kids attending this? How do you connect with school guidance counselors to let them know that this is a viable career path and a great alternative to a traditional college path?
Miranda Martz: Schools now are so much I'm going to say in that respect better. When I went to school, as I said, I only saw my counselor like twice, but now they have what is called CTE teachers. They help get kids involved in after-school activities or even during school, like pre-apprenticeship things, to get them immersed in something they would like. In a career, and I think one of the biggest hurdles for me, as you were saying about parents, the parents can be a little difficult at times. Trying to get them to change their mind because manufacturing was the way it was when they were younger.
Manufacturing was not a dirty word, but it wasn't ideal. They want their kids to have a better life than them and go to college. They don't understand how lucrative it can be. They don't know what manufacturing is. The modern manufacturing that we have now and logistics, and you can go and drive for Walmart and make $100,000 a year, which blows my mind. But it's evolved much, and I think it's a common misconception that manufacturing machining welding as, as you can say, CNC machining all those different areas are so antiquated, and it's not.
It's so different. I would love to take the parents with me with the kids and open their eyes to like the way things are now.
Lisa Ryan: That's not a bad idea, right. You were maybe having a family day instead of a kid's day where mom or dad could come because they would be more open to supporting that. I think about that too. You can either go to a four-year college and pay off your student debt for the next 30 years, basically making a house payment, or go to a tech school to become an apprentice, have minimal debt, and make a great living more than that.
When you leave work, you leave work you're not thinking about it and answering emails all hours of the day and night, and all of that additional stress that comes with it, but opening up the eyes of the parents will let them know that their kids can have every bit as good of a life. Absolutely, because of the money that they can make.
Miranda Martz: An apprenticeship is like a traditional school, like college. The beauty about an apprenticeship is that your company sponsors you, so you don't have to put up the money for an apprenticeship so that it can help underserved people. I know I didn't have the money even to do one year of college, let alone four years.
I was working, and I was making money. My company was sponsoring me, and they were paying for my classes and my books at the time, so I didn't have to pay for that. Every six months, in our model with the state, we get a race you're supposed to get 6% ratings are there. So as a percentage of your pay every six months, it's a big bonus to be an apprentice, and it's as good for you and your career.
If you want to further your career and make good money, you can do that without going to college.
Lisa Ryan: You talk about the fact that when you as a business owner get involved with a local JVS or community college, tech school, apprentice program, manufacturers, of Manufacturers Association. In your area, number one, you can get to know the kids if they're going to work for somebody. They will work with somebody they know, so you have pre-access before they graduate. You can help design the program, so create the exact students with the same skills you want. So what are you, seeing as far as companies getting involved, how are they getting involved? What are they doing? Also, what are some of the success stories you've seen from companies that take advantage of that?
Miranda Martz: We encourage the companies to come and talk to the kids during our lunch hour. We have them come in, and they can bring swag if they want to. But the kids, if you ask them what manufacturing, they have no idea.
It's sad. When I went to Hershey and talked to their fifth graders to eighth graders about manufacturing, it was trying to get them. We want to start young and get them even to know what manufacturing is to see if they'd be interested.
I have the companies come in and talk to the kids. We take tours through the companies every year at our kickoff of ours. We do a kickoff celebration at one of our companies, so we have a big party for the pre-apprentices before starting. We take tours, but then we also do job shadowing. They can take a kid and do job shadowing if they want to. We do placements and mock interviews. We do internships at the companies as well. That's also part of my job as a pre-apprenticeship coordinator to see where these kids shine.
We place them with the companies that would best fit them. For example, plenty of