As long-time workers begin to retire, manufacturers are looking to younger people to carry on their legacies

Both small and growing businesses in the manufacturing industry are looking to employ individuals who are able to adapt quickly to new environments, build strong relationships with employees and clients, and take pride in what they do.

“Manufacturing is a profession that offers workers the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” said Timothy Murray, president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a broad field that someone with or without an educational background can enter and receive on-the-job training.”

The manufacturing industry had a 3.4-percent unemployment rate in June and expects to need new people.

“People are retiring, and businesses need to young employees who have fresh ideas and a new way of doing things,” said Susan Janus, regional manager for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Be Hoppy

Wormtown Brewery in Worcester is growing by leaps and bounds, with Boston as its No. 1 market, Gillette Stadium as a huge consumer, exploding business deals on Cape Cod, and more than 1,500 restaurants carrying its beer, which focuses on using Massachusetts ingredients for products like Be Hoppy IPA.

Timothy Wolfe, who has worked for Wormtown Brewery as a shipping production worker since December, brings military training to new role.

This is “the coolest job ever because you’re making something that people use and enjoy,” Wolfe said.

Relationships first, products second

Devens manufacturer Laddawn, Inc. is a family-owned operation established in 1976, distributing low-density poly-film to companies small and large, including retailers like Staples. Laddawn uses materials sourced from the Gulf of Mexico to manufacture using a process called Blown Film Extrusion, in which low density polyethylene is extruded in a bubble of film in diameters as large as 150 feet and converted downstream in the process to bags, film and tubing. Laddawn is the only packaging company nationwide manufacturing its own product and stocking it as well. 

Lamika Mitchell, Maggie Cameron, and Marybeth Bonina – customer relationship leaders at Laddawn – were promoted to a position created especially for them because of their excellent customer service and work ethic.

Timothy Wolfe, packaging and shipping production worker

Age: 29
Company: Wormtown Brewery
Work location: Worcester
Company’s main product: Beer
Annual salary (based on industry estimates): Between $26,000 and $34,000
Military veterans: Timothy was an American advisor for the Afghan National Army at age 22 when he was in the United States Marine Corps.

Laddawn, Inc., Devens  /  Company’s main product: Packaging materials

Marybeth Bonina, customer relationship leader

Age: 43
Annual salary (based on industry estimates): Between $63,000 and $67,000
Artistic eyes and ears: Marybeth loves attending concerts of all different music genres and has a passion for photography

Lamika Mitchell, customer relationship leader

Age: 32
Annual salary (based on industry estimates): Between $63,000 and $67,000
Entrepreneurial off time: Lamika loves cosmetics and fashion and has even discovered a way to purchase trending clothes from thrift stores and resell them for a higher profit

Maggie Cameron, customer relationship leader

Age: 29
Annual salary (based on industry estimates): Between $63,000 and $67,000
Back to nature: Maggie describes herself as “an outdoorsy person who loves being in the woods.”

The “best product at Laddawn are the employees,” said Mitchell, adding building client relationships sells products.

Bonina left a managerial position at a family-owned business to come work for Laddawn, starting as a part-timer and then progressing up the ladder to a full-time position. She encourages her fellow employees to use the company’s tuition reimbursement program to progress their careers.

Creating works of art

Owned by its employees, Worcester Manufacturing on the outskirts of the city uses nickel chrome plating and powder coating to make American-made steel products beautiful, said CEO Charles Flanagan, for use in school and office furniture and metal framing.

Jaime Miknaitis, who has been with Worcester Manufacturing for one year, said the best part about doing her job is “being able to watch and create art everyday with her own hands.”

With past experience in welding, Miknaitis said she was self-taught and likes working with her hands, emphasizing quality over quantity. 

Jaime MiKnaitis, floor coordinator

Age: 31
Company: Worcester Manufacturing, Inc.
Work location: Worcester
Company’s main product:
Metal tubes
Annual salary (based on industry estimates): Between $36,000 and $41,000
Quotable: “I was a tomboy growing up and spent a lot of time with my dad…I take after him in the way that I earn money by working hard and putting in an honest day’s work. That’s what makes me love my job.”

Kyle Simmons, mechanic and department supervisor

Age: 36
Company: JEN Manufacturing, Inc.
Work location: Millbury
Company’s main product: Poly-Brush, used for painting, crafting and hobbies
Annual salary (based on industry estimates): Between $49,000 and $90,000
Quotable: “I love to go fishing during my time off…and I actually catch some fish!”

The space-age paint brush

Millbury family-owned firm, JEN Manufacturing has become world-famous since its founding in 1957, once earning praise from NASA as manufacturing the only disposal brush able to assemble parts of space crafts.

The Poly-Brush – often imitated, including by one rival on Amazon calling itself the lower-case jen – is made using a special JEN formula and sold as a paint applicator at places like Walmart.

Kyle Simmons, who has been with JEN for 16 years, said he always knew he was mechanically inclined and became supervisor by learning on the job. When he started working at JEN, he worked in quality control and worked his way up by “watching well-qualified people who know the business.”

Catching seafood and stopping bad guys

The extremely durable and corrosion-resistant welded wire mesh made by Riverdale Mills in Northbridge is used to create seafood traps used to catch Maine lobster and security fencing for places like U.S. embassies and border fences.

Sydrick Speight has worked for Riverdale Mills for 10 years and done almost every job at the company with a hands-on approach. From pallet builder to welder operator to drawing lead operator, Speight said he was particularly interested in working for Riverdale because the workplace changes every day.

Speight said the coolest part about working at Riverdale Mills is watching the news and seeing the company’s products and thinking, “I made this.”

Sydrick Speight, shift supervisor

Age: 34
Company: Riverdale Mills
Work location: Northbridge
Company’s main product: Welded wire-mesh, used for aquaculture, security, farming and construction industries
Annual salary (based on industry estimates): Between $37,000 and $51,000
Eating full circle: “I was in Maine with my wife, when we decided to get lobster to cook for dinner. We went to the wharf and bought the lobster from a fisherman who noticed that I was wearing my Riverdale Mills jacket. He informed me that he had bought the wire for the lobster trap that he uses from Riverdale Mills. I ended up eating something that was caught in a trap that I made the wire for!”