Eric Hahn is on a mission to eradicate unemployment forever. He admits it may seem grand, but he has a plan.
One conversation is all it takes to understand his passion surrounding the issue. Although his title may read, “Vice President, Organizational Development,” his work speaks to an even higher purpose.
Hahn’s work began long before coming to General Plastics. He noticed from the getgo the discrepancy that existed between the large number of jobs that needed to be filled and the small number of people whose skill sets matched those jobs.
“It occurred to me that we have two choices,” he said. “We can sit back and reap people from the four corners of the earth, which is costly and ineffective, or we can help to do something for our own community.”
Seven years ago, Hahn joined the Tacoma-Pierce County Workforce Development Council to learn more about what could be done to address the skill gap. Immediately, he became aware of the opportunity for businesses to help create training programs to cultivate a pool of people with relevant skill sets.
“The reality is that we’re dealing with a current workforce that still has gaps,” said Hahn. “You can blame it on whoever, but that’s the reality. There isn’t a lot being done to connect skills to a real job.”
Since that time, Hahn has spent countless hours with the Tacoma-Pierce County Workforce Development Council, involved General Plastics as a corporate member of the Boys and Girls club, and partnered with the CEO of WorkForce Central, Linda Nguyen, to help start a manufacturing academy within the county.
Being a corporate member of the Boys and Girls club allows General Plastics to have a hand in mentoring kids to get them excited about school, and to help prepare them for the world of tomorrow.
The manufacturing academy is a twelve-week course designed to give people the basics they need in a manufacturing environment. Hahn says the program has been incredibly successful, both for the individuals enrolled as well as for businesses.
Hahn truly believes that employers can, and should play a big role in addressing training needs.
Hahn said, “It’s critical for an employer to be able to change the game – to help create training programs that will ultimately benefit the employer.”
The payoff in the end, he argues, is two-fold. “You’re not only gaining a qualified pool of candidates for yourself and others, but you have the ability to make a difference in your community, and to make it a viable source of manpower that will attract other employers and facilitate your own growth and development.”
Hahn points out that when you bring in the right people to your organization who are excited to be a part of what you do, it affects the overall environment, and creates a positive image for the company.
“When you have people who are motivated to do a good job and want to be there, it becomes contagious, and it helps promote an image within the community,” said Hahn.
This is evidenced by the changing statistics of new hires within the company. Hahn admitted that not long ago, only one out of every ten people brought on for the probation period would end up staying. Now, however, those numbers are changing dramatically. For example, five out of the last six people hired at General Plastics are still there and doing outstanding work.
According to Hahn, this is attributed to hiring people who walk into the organization already possessing the essential skill sets needed to do the job well. This allows them to get up to speed, and quickly become productive members of the organization.
In the end, all Hahn really wants is to leave the world a little bit better than he found it. Having grown up as the son of a rancher and one of five children, he was taught early on to develop a strong work ethic, and to leave things better for those who come after you.
Hahn joked about how he developed his values, saying, “You learn very quickly that the animals don’t feed themselves, and that the eggs don’t collect themselves. If you don’t do the work than it doesn’t get done. My dad made sure of that.”
And work he will. Hahn still has big plans for the company, and for the future as a whole.
“The effort has paid off,” he said. “But we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Hahn said he will be forever grateful for the opportunity he was given ten years ago at General Plastics, saying, “I’ll always see this as the best job I’ll ever have.”
It is a rare thing to be able to find that one’s own passion matches so well with a company’s pre-established values. At General Plastics, Hahn is free to pursue his vision of a future where unemployment doesn’t exist, where everyone has a viable skillset, and where all employers have an amazing pool of people to choose from.
“My dream is that I’ll look back and say, not only did I leave General Plastics in great shape, but I did something for my community to ensure a great future for them, and for the next generations.”
Hahn quoted Winston Churchill, saying “We make a living by what we make, we make a life by what we give.” “Hopefully,” Hahn said, “I will have made a life because I’ve given back.”