NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KCRG) – This week’s ‘Working Iowa’ brings us to the Centro Incorporated custom rotational molding manufacturing plant in North Liberty. Workers make custom parts for big companies like John Deere and Caterpillar.
The manufacturing team consists of machine operators, who actually mold the parts, in addition to product inspector finishers.
“The operators begin demolding parts, passing those down to the floor to finish them,” said Thomas Mrgich, who has been with the company for about nine years. “There are anywhere from six to 24 parts per round and those get completed by the floor, inspected by quality.”
He said some parts go on to get packaged for a shipment while others go to a secondary line.
Like most employees, Mrgich began as a product inspector finisher, which is considered an entry-level position within the company. He grew in his role and eventually became part of business process support.
“[The company is] open to allowing individuals to move up and, really, the sky is the limit,” he said.
Centro has eight locations in the U.S., one in Brazil and another in Northern Ireland. That comes to a total of nearly a thousand employees–400 of them are in North Liberty.
There are still about a dozen positions that need to be filled in North Liberty, but Human Resources director Rhonda Griffin says Iowa’s low unemployment rate has made entry-level hiring difficult.
“We typically, in the past, have always looked for someone with previous manufacturing experience,” she said. “That’s been exceedingly difficult over time.”
To overcome this challenge, the company developed a train-up program to make opportunities for applicants who have backgrounds outside of manufacturing.
“We’ll invite them for an extended interview, we’ll pay them for the time that they’re here, and they’ll do some assessments with us so that we can learn if they have the capability of learning the skills,” Griffin said.
At the end of the interview, hiring leaders will work with the applicants to see if a career in manufacturing is a good fit. Griffin said the program has had many successful outcomes.
“People that increased their quality of living, because they took advantage of the opportunity to come in and see what we do, learned that they do have more mechanical ability than they thought they did,” she said.
It’s a win for the company, too.
“[The employees] earn more money; they earn benefits like health insurance, 401Ks, paid time off,” Griffin said. “We gained, loyal, dedicated associates.”
Everything that happens here at Centro is process-driven.
“You have to follow the same process each and every time,” Griffin said. “So the part comes out the same at the end each and every time. Then it fits on our customer’s equipment like it’s supposed to.”
For Thomas Mrgich, it’s the tight-knit relationship among the employees that makes that process easier and enjoyable.
“We all work together to help everyone get to our common goal,” So there’s training, and there’s always opportunity for those who want it to explore other opportunities.”
Click or tap here for an application or to learn more about careers with Centro.