Internal Development Cultivates Success with Intek Plastics

August 16, 2023
  • Dave Ewers
    By Dave Ewers
    Director of Content Development
    Tooling U-SME

Recently, we had the opportunity to host a webinar with Intek Plastics, a major supplier of engineered thermoplastic extrusions, fabricated sub-assemblies, and value-added services to original equipment manufacturers, based in Hastings, Minnesota. Intek is the recipient of SME’s 2023 recognized Intek as a manufacturing leader providing outstanding benchmarks for companies seeking to build a workforce strategy. Nate Becker and Chris Von Helmst, Intek’s Training and Development specialists, discussed the company’s revamped training program, and I’m excited to share some highlights from this session on the blog today. 

In 2019, Intek looked to not only improve the way training was delivered but also to provide employees with effective and fully supported career paths. “Years ago, training amounted to not much more than ‘watch these videos, start working, don’t break anything’. This was unfair and ineffective on every level,” said Nate Becker. Drawing inspiration from the Training Within Industry (TWI) methodology to create a blended learning approach, the training program includes hands-on training using real tools in real work environments, along with ongoing in-person and eLearning materials, including online classes from Tooling U-SME catalog. “The first step in approaching any new program is to take our egos out of it. We realized that we do not know everything, and to be able to design effective training, we needed to involve the people that do that specific job every day. Together, we set out the goals, curriculum, timeline, and ongoing support plan,” added Becker. 

New hires at Intek begin their job orientation with a ten-day, hands-on class to learn about the machinery, theory, and safety they will be required to know for their role. After the class is completed, new hires transition to three months of on-the-job training with seasoned operators, team leads, and supervisors. Progress is tracked and discussed during scheduled check-ins and at the end of their formal training, trainees are encouraged to provide feedback on their experience. “The Intek training department lives in a continual state of evaluation and improvement,” said Becker. 

Training and development do not stop when orientation is complete though. Intek implemented a talent development program to put its employees on a career trajectory. Through this program, job positions are broken up into different skill levels—for example, there are ten levels to move through in the operator role. Every two months employees are eligible to move up a skill level and earn a 4% pay increase by demonstrating that they have learned the skills appropriate for that time period. This is standard across all positions at Intek. “We found that the ability to determine your fate and the pace at which your career progresses was very important to us,” said Chris Von Helmst. 

The centerpiece of Intek’s successful training and development program is its focus on developing talent internally. There are currently 236 employees at Intek, and each has a training matrix built individually for them. This includes tracking progress, feedback from supervisors, formal check-ins, and identifying additional training opportunities. Each department at Intek works collaboratively to deliver training curricula and assessments. “We believe in investing in our employees and giving everyone the opportunity to learn and grow. Our training programs are designed to upskill, reward, and promote the people that dedicate so much of their time and energy to bringing our customers a world-class product,” exclaimed Becker. Other noteworthy elements of the program include: 

  • Emerging Leaders Program: develops our leaders of the future. Breakout sessions are taught by leadership members.
  • Registered Apprenticeship: provides further pathways for production workers to attain formal higher education.
  • Dual Training Pipeline: structures secondary education and in-house training to prepare employers for future promotions.
Through the adoption of these programs, Intek was able to reduce new hire turnover by 50% and average about seven employees gaining a level every month. Intek’s other accolades include Business of the Year and one of the top 100 places to work in Minnesota. For more information on Intek’s training program, watch Tooling U-SME’s on-demand, How Internal Development Cultivates Success: Best Practices From Our 2023 Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award Winner, Intek Plastics
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