July 24, 2017
Brookville Equipment is the little company that could. With over 200 employees, they have become an innovator in manufacturing transportation solutions specializing in locomotive, mining and streetcars.
And they are an innovator in attracting, building and maintaining their workforce.
Located in a small town, ensuring a ready-to-work employee base can be challenging. But Brookville’s leadership invested their time and their commitment to working with local schools – from elementary to high schools, technical schools and community colleges – to educate and train the future of their workforce. I had the pleasure of sitting with three of their employees – Matt Hergenrother, Maintenance Technician Andrew Morelli, Crew Leader; and Erin McKillip, Director of Human Resources, to talk about Brookville Equipment, careers in the skilled trades and what makes Brookville’s workforce program unique.
Growing up, both Matt and Andrew knew they wanted to work with their hands. Matt enrolled at Jeff Tech and took an interest in their welding program. Andrew went out West to be an artist, until he realized he needed money. And a real job. That’s when he decided to attend Triangle Tech. “I didn’t really care for academics. But I was always building forts, treehouses then cars when I got older.” He flourished at Triangle Tech, where he learned how to read electrical schematics and gained skill sets that Brookville Equipment was looking for. “I can pick out a single wire from a 100 page blueprint,” he said. “I graduated on a Friday and started my job [at Brookville Equipment] on Monday.”
Matt on the other hand, began working at Brookville Equipment part-time while still at Jeff Tech. “I worked part-time and attended Jeff Tech for high school. I was working 12 hour days.” At Jeff Tech, he studied basics and shop, including welding and fabrication. His mentor was his shop teacher, John Smelko.
Both Andrew and Matt share the same reward that comes from working at Brookville – seeing the product they create. “I never really cared about locomotives. Never ridden one. But now I get to drive them around! Best part is starting with a skeleton and using talent and skills to form raw materials into a locomotive or streetcar. It’s art!” Andrew said.
He sees welding as art too and is able to use his talent to create some of the most beautiful locomotives and streetcars throughout the U.S. Andrew continues his artistic pursuits in his downtime, using the skills he hones at work and scrap metal from the shop (which Brookville sells to employees for $0.10 a pound) to create jewelry. During my company visit, he showed me a sterling silver ring surrounded with Hawaiian koa wood that he made. He has even used scrap metal to make his own anvil, forge, and various other tools.
“We love our employee’s hobbies because they benefit what they do here. We allow them use our tools and shop too. They use our garages to work on their cars! They get cross-trained in other departments by allowing them to do so. It’s super-beneficial to our organization!” Erin said “We recognize that our employees are true craftsman! We refurbished the original, FIRST street car from San Francisco. It was all wood inside – very different from today’s street cars. And they figured it out! They loved it! And the result was beautiful. “
And what do they say to kids who are looking at a potential career in the skilled trades? “Go for it!! Even in high school when I was working here part-time, we had a test in Vo-Tech. I passed it in two hours. Took other kids eight. And it’s because I was already working in the field and applying what I learned.” Matt said.
Andrew continued, “My schooling was important, but Brookville gave me the opportunity to learn more on the job than in school. I got skills. If you are going to spend that much money, know what you are going to do. If you don’t know what you want to do - go out and work different jobs. Figure it out. Working reminded me of what I love to do.” Erin summed it up, “We love what we do. And it’s important to communicate and educate parents and kids about all the opportunities your company offers so they can become part of your future workforce!”
And that is what keeps the motors running at Brookville Equipment. They don’t just say “I think we can” – they DO.
For more information on Brookville Equipment, visit their website at www.brookvillecorp.com
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