PBN Archives - Hope Global

Leslie Taito CEO of Hope Global - Women in Manufacturing

Hope Global names Taito CEO, De Santiago President

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CUMBERLAND – Leslie Taito has been named CEO of Hope Global, succeeding Cheryl Merchant, who was recently named President of the Taco Family of Companies, North America, Hope Global confirmed Friday, December 7, 2018.

Taito previously served as chief of staff and senior vice president of corporate operations of Hope Global. Prior to working with the company, Taito served as the director of regulatory reform at the R.I. Office of Management and Budget and before that, as CEO of Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Services Inc. Taito told PBN Friday that the company was well led by Merchant over her 19 years at the helm and that she saw the business going in the right direction. Taito expects to continue that growth direction and further the long-standing legacy of the company, she said. Taito also noted that Taco was very fortunate to have Merchant and that she sees good things for the two Rhode Island manufacturers going forward.

Marcelino De Santiago will take over as President of Hope Global – while maintaining his current role as Chief Operating Officer. Prior to working with Hope Global, De Santiago served as vice president and global operations director of Rogers Corp.

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Rhode Island Manufacturers - Supply Chain Management

R.I. Manufacturers Learn to Manage a ‘Good’ Problem – Training More People for Growing Job Openings

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In the last few years, manufacturing in Rhode Island is on a growth spurt of sales, productivity and plant modernization, and that’s led to one of those “good” problems. Similarly, new construction projects are showing up across the state, from bridge and road rebuilding to new business and residential projects in downtown Providence.  And in both cases, companies are scrambling to find workers to fill jobs on the factory floor and on the job site. The concept of supply chain management – usually associated with hard goods such as metals, chemicals, and other raw materials – is moving into human resources offices. Companies are thinking of workers as a commodity requiring more and continuing investment.

Manufacturers and contractors are gearing up on all fronts to recruit workers and create a pipeline to talent for the future, including a fresh emphasis on partnerships among companies, trade associations, educators and government. Companies are recruiting job applicants by every method in the playbook. They are doing new-worker training and incumbent-worker retraining because factories are more automated, computerized and reliant on workers’ initiative than ever before. They are hitting the road, visiting schools and community groups to describe contemporary manufacturing and construction jobs and workplaces to ever-younger audiences, even into high and middle schools. Manufacturers are opening factories to visitors to convince potential employees that these places are no longer dark, dirty, dangerous dens of low-paying jobs – an old image embedded in many Rhode Islanders’ minds, while builders are engaging interns to learn the ins and outs of the construction trades.

A whole new environment

Rhode Island’s contemporary factories now are more likely to be bright, clean and filled with sophisticated, computer-guided machinery. Many are air-conditioned. “We tell people, ‘We work hard, but we don’t sweat,’ ” said Michael Black, president, and CEO of National Marker Co. in North Smithfield, which started out by making safety signs and has moved into sophisticated printing technologies. Thirty years after the decline of Rhode Island manufacturing in the 1980s and 10 years out from the Great Recession that clobbered manufacturers across the nation, how did we get to a time when companies are scrambling for workers? The state has about 1,600 manufacturing businesses, said David Chenevert, executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association. At 4.1 percent in July, unemployment in Rhode Island is low, and all employers are competing for labor.

“There are more jobs than unemployed people in the country right now,” said Wendy Mackie, CEO of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association. “Getting people to work for you and retaining them is just going to be everyone’s problem.” “It’s a supply challenge, probably not exclusive to manufacturing,” said Steven Kitchin, vice president of corporate education and training for New England Institute of Technology. “It is across the entire labor demand continuum and across industries.”

In need of a workforce

Some workers dropped out of factory jobs during the contractions of the 2008 recession. “When manufacturing companies were down and the whole country was having a bad time, [Rhode Island] lost a lot of workers,” said Cheryl Merchant, president and CEO of Hope Global. Merchant and many others noted that Rhode Island manufacturers have an aging workforce. “It’s not uncommon to have 40- or 50-year retirement parties,” Merchant said. Amy Gryzbowski, executive director of the Westerly Education Center, which does a lot of training for new hires at General Dynamics Electric Boat, said the company has had 10 percent attrition a year in its workforce, mostly because of retirements. A happier side of the struggle to find manufacturing workers is that manufacturing is on a strong growth trend in Rhode Island.

Statistics from the state Department of Labor and Training show manufacturing on a roller-coaster ride since before the recession. In December 2006 there were 51,800 manufacturing jobs in Rhode Island. By December 2012, that number had dropped to 39,500. In July 2018, the number of jobs stood at 41,200. In the past calendar year, July 2017 to July 2018, 800 jobs were added to the state’s manufacturing sector. And while that growth rate was a modest 2 percent, it was still greater than the overall state job growth rate of 1.9 percent for the 12-month period. Chenevert said, “There’s a resurgence of manufacturing across the country. Lots of offshore work is coming back. We are seeing expansion, investment, and new equipment.”

Referring to Swissline Precision LLC, a Cumberland company he used to own, which is now run by his son, Chenevert said, “Orders are rising; quotes are incredible. Sales in the last year are up 10 percent from gross sales of the previous year. Manufacturers are very upbeat.” They aren’t the only ones. The construction sector workforce hit an all-time high in Rhode Island in 2006, employing 22,791 workers. By 2011 that number had fallen to 15,680. But in July it stood at 19,200, with employers consistently calling for more workers, here and across the United States. Manufacturing share of employment: Rhode Island ranks fourth in New England for the percentage of its workforce that is employed in manufacturing.

Who are the candidates?

One line of attack at the problem has been recruitment, via LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, job fairs, career days at secondary and postsecondary schools, direct talks with high school guidance counselors and people in postsecondary technical schools such as New England Tech. Some company chieftains and human resources people say high school students and young adults simply haven’t considered a career in manufacturing or construction, partly because of the emphasis in high schools in the recent past was to aim kids toward four-year college degrees. But there are plenty of people who are not inclined or suited for four-year college programs, who like to work with their hands and solve technical problems, and who can be earning a wage in manufacturing and construction just a few years out of high school.

“When my kids were in high school, everything was oriented toward preparing them for college,” said Michelle Jacques, human resources manager at Tiffany & Co. in Cumberland. “In the last generation we lost sight of the trades, and we really have a lot of catching up to do.” Jacques mentioned a young man in a general studies program at Community College of Rhode Island who showed up at Tiffany last summer for a strictly temporary job opportunity. He was smitten by the kind of work happening there. He changed his major to engineering, and he continues to work at Tiffany in an intern slot extended for him because of his enthusiasm. “You have to help people figure out what they are good at and how to apply it,” Jacques said.

Also, people often don’t realize how advanced manufacturing work has become. Many executives said visitors to their facilities are astonished by the working conditions. Compared to decades ago, said Black of NMC, factory floors are now brighter, quieter, safer, more efficient, more computerized. They are places where fewer employees produce a greater output and employees are more self-directed. Merchant, of Hope Global, said, “The world of manufacturing is more than just the factory floor. It requires a huge variety of technical abilities. Manufacturing needs skills at all levels: dependable, hardworking people who aren’t trying to be the chief; skilled technicians; people with backgrounds in engineering and IT and accounting.” Even when manufacturers find good potential employees, even educated and skilled employees, training is still needed for specific needs and proprietary processes. Mid-career training for incumbent – or existing – employees also is necessary.

Making it happen

An assortment of grants for training is available from the state DLT and the Governor’s Workforce Board. Three programs run by this board include Real Pathways RI, which uses partnerships to serve people with barriers to unemployment, including veterans, homeless people, and the long-term unemployed. Another is the Work Immersion program, which offers up to 50 percent wage reimbursement to companies that give temporary employment to certain college students and unemployed adults. Also, the Incumbent Worker Training Grants provide 50 percent wage reimbursement for approved continuing education programs for existing workers. One state grant program that earns very high praise from companies is Real Jobs Rhode Island, created in 2015.

Real Jobs RI differs markedly from the old “training and praying” model, in which tech schools trained students and then tossed them into the job market, hoping they would find a slot for their skills. In contrast, Real Jobs RI starts by asking Ocean State companies to describe exactly the skills they need and then designs training programs to fit the need. Training in this demand-driven model is often a combination of work in the classroom – at Rhode Island colleges and trade schools, as well as the unique public/private entity that is the Westerly Education Center – and on the factory floor. Real Jobs RI is described as “collaborative, flexible and business-led.” The program awards training grants only to industry-based or regional partnerships. A partnership is defined as “collaborations of no fewer than five employers, two other strategic partners (such as a college, university, or nonprofit), and a lead entity.” Real Jobs RI has provided $16 million in workforce development strategies since 2015, said the DLT. Since its inception, it has provided training money and support for 2,200 new hires; continuing education of 1,221 workers; and 144 high school and 45 college internships.

The state has three partnerships specific to manufacturing. One of them is Rhode Island Manufacturing Growth Collaborative. The lead applicant is Polaris MEP. Ten companies are named as employer partners. The strategic partners are RIMA, RIMTA, the IYRS School of Technology & Trades, Workforce Performance Solutions, University of Rhode Island and CCRI. Expressing a widespread admiration for the Real Jobs program, Mackie, of RIMTA, said, “Real Jobs RI is blazing trails in demand-driven workforce development. [DLT Director] Scott Jensen is a visionary. We are lucky to have him.”

Another trade pipeline

Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. is a national trade group with chapters in the states. The Rhode Island chapter operates the Rhode Island Construction Training Academy, which has been running formal apprenticeship programs for 25 years. Kristen Brescia, director of training for the academy, agrees construction firms in Rhode Island are in dire need of skilled workers in all disciplines. The trades taught at the academy include carpentry, craft laborer, electric, HVAC, painting, pipe fitting, roofing, sheet metal work and sprinkler fitting. “There are shortages of workers in all areas of the trades,” she said. Training periods can range from two to five years, depending on the trade, Brescia said. The school enrolls 250 to 260 students a year. About 90 percent have been hired by a company and sent to the school for apprenticeship training. Since about 2008, the school’s enrollment mirrored the ups and downs of construction activity in Rhode Island, Brescia said. In the 2009-10 school year, when the recession was squeezing the economy, enrollment in apprenticeships took a dive. She said enrollment has been picking up since 2014, as the need for skilled construction workers has been rising.

The state ABC chapter is focusing on reaching middle and high school students with the message that the construction industry offers training and lucrative jobs. In an Aug. 27 interview with Fox Business, Michael Bellaman, the CEO of ABC, said the group has more than 800 partnerships nationwide that are offering training to 200,000 people right now. Bellaman said someone leaving high school could go into training in these trades and earn $30,000 to $40,000 at a first job, moving up to pay of $65,000 to $70,000 within four years, with no college debt.

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Speak Up to Get Ahead in the Workplace

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When Leslie Taito, a senior vice president at Hope Global, was at an early point in her work life, a male customer once told her she was “prettier than a speckled pup.” As if channeling many businesswomen’s lifelong task of cleaning up gender relations in the workplace, Taito told the man, “You know, you just called me a dog.” The story elicited some wry smiles from the audience at the Business Women’s Summit, hosted by the Providence Business News May 12 at the Providence Marriott Downtown. The summit and a panel discussion preceded an awards ceremony for this year’s Business Women’s Awards winners.

A few more stories of gender assumptions in the workplace – like one from a panelist who said she no longer takes a notebook into meetings because of the assumption that the woman in the room takes the minutes – followed Taito’s anecdote about her customer. But for the most part, the summit, lunch and awards day was a festive time of accomplished Rhode Island women celebrating achievements and sharing ideas about how to rock the business world in high heels – sometimes pushing against overt or covert biases. In addition to Taito, members of the panel were Renee Aloisio, chief operating officer and partner at LGC+D; Jessica David, senior vice president of strategy and community investments at the Rhode Island Foundation; Renee Evangelista, a lawyer and one founder of Howland Evangelista Kohlenberg Burnett; Kati Machtley, director of the Women’s Summit at Bryant University; and Dr. Angela Caliendo, vice president of the University Medicine Foundation and executive vice chair of the Department of Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Among topics such as communication styles, pay equity, flexibility and the value of mentoring, one recurring theme about female life in the business world was the need for women in business to simply banish uncertainty and speak up. In opening remarks, R.I. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said women sometimes hear an internal voice that discourages them from voicing a fresh idea. “We need to be that voice and to raise a hand,” Gorbea said. “To let things lie is a sure way of not changing the world.” Defining “intrapreneur” as someone marked to do innovative thinking within and for an organization, Evangelista said women should craft their careers with smart strategizing. “Be fearless; think strategically,” she said. “As you shape your message better, people start to rally.” Assertiveness is important in promoting oneself for raises and bonuses, something women are not particularly good at, panelists said.

Machtley said the gap between what women and men earn in equal jobs has only narrowed by 4 cents – from 75 cents to 79 cents to the dollar – in the past 20 years. She said 63 percent of women do not ask for raises, but 75 percent of those who do ask get the raise. Machtley said women need to learn to negotiate for themselves at the start of their careers or they will never catch up. Evangelista concurred: “We need to advocate for ourselves or else we are leaving money on the table.” Women’s tendency to defer to others also enters into the prickly arena of communications. Caliendo said, “Men look at things … differently, than women do. I had to define my voice and to have the confidence to be able to deliver my message in a way that men could hear it.”

Women’s communication with each other also is important. The cattiness of middle school does not help women in the business world, speakers said. “We have to figure out how to give honest and good feedback and not be brutal about it,” said Taito. Panelists agreed that finding and using a mentor is important and that senior people have a responsibility to offer their expertise to younger people. “Make time for a mentor,” said Aloisio. “If you find you are not getting what you need you have to ask for it. Do it for yourself and then return the favor.” David elaborated on the point, saying that she seeks out women whom she admires and emulates them. David also raised points about the subtly of gender bias in the workplace. She said she’s been in meetings in which men spoke only to each other as if she were invisible.

Also, “it drives me crazy when women are asked to take notes,” David said. “There seems to be a sense that caretaking falls to women unless it is called out as something that everyone is supposed to do.” “We have to stop judging; we have to stop assuming” things about women’s preferences and needs, Caliendo said. “Stop assuming a woman would say no to a job with travel because she has young children. There are opportunities for everyone.”

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Providence Business Women - Hope Global

Our own Leslie Taito is honored at this year’s PBN Business Women Awards

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We’re excited that Leslie Taito, Hope Global’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Operations, has been honored with the Technical Services – Industry Leader award for 2016. The Providence Business News Business Women Awards recognizes our region’s most successful leaders and business owners, and this year the program will be combined with PBN’s Women’s Leadership Summit, making the event a momentous day for women in business.
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Providence Business News - Hope Global

Why Mentoring Matters – Providence Business News

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It was during a leadership-training program at General Motors that Cheryl Merchant says she found her calling as a leader and mentor. She joined Hope Global’s predecessor in 1999 and has fostered a spirit centered on teamwork that has helped the company triple annual revenue. She was recognized earlier this year as the 2015 outstanding mentor among businesswomen by Providence Business News.

Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 12:05 am
Throughout my career I have always known the importance of mentorship. I had an amazing mentor early on that pushed me, challenged me and advised me on everything from how to dress to how to tackle complex problems. I can’t think of a day that has gone by where I have not used a lesson or drawn upon that wisdom imparted upon me. My mentor was and is such an influence upon my career. I still talk to him weekly, as I now call him a friend.

Screen-Shot-2015-12-07-at-8.35.30-AM-200x300Mentorship is not just about sharing all the happy endings where everything worked out and you ended up winning one. It really is about sharing lessons learned. Mentorship is about taking your life experiences and breaking it down, the mistakes, the hard knocks, the “one you wish you could do over” and giving insight into what you learned and what you would have done differently. It really is about being vulnerable and open to examining the moments where we didn’t shine. It is in those moments where growth happens.

Beyond the professionals at Hope, I am currently mentoring three young professionals. We meet regularly and discuss issues, life’s questions, things that are important and how to make decisions. There is a truly remarkable thing that happens when you mentor. You will get as much back, if not more, than you give. At least, I do!

 – Cheryl Mechant, CEO Hope Global