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Pompeian
Maria Garzon, a laboratory supervisor at Pompeian Inc., explains how the company's olive oil bottles are made. Pompeian will be the location of a manufacturing boot camp starting Oct. 13. (The Daily Record/Lizzy McLellan)

First EARN program to launch in Baltimore

At Pompeian Inc. in Baltimore, CEO David Bensadoun’s biggest challenge with entry level workers is getting them to show up on time.

“We’re talking about the production line. If the production line is supposed to start at 6, it’s supposed to start at 6,” he said. “We’re not talking about things that are really out of this world… We’re talking really about basic things.”

Some of those other basic things that Pompeian needs in its entry level employees include communication skills, “team spirit” and awareness of surroundings, said Bensadoun.

His company will soon be able to hire workers from a training program that addresses those skills, through the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s Manufacturing Boot Camp, which will hold its first session at the Pompeian facility in Baltimore.

The boot camp starts Oct. 13. It is the first program to begin out of 28 partnership-driven training programs taking shape this year through EARN implementation grants — money the legislature agreed to allocate for workforce training initiatives, or “Employee Advancement Right Now,” through the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership already had experience in implementing a boot camp, but now it will have some additional help from state funding.

Each session of the boot camp will be catered to the needs of particular employers that choose to participate. The trainees will then be placed with those companies. The first round will include Pompeian and Green Bay Packaging Inc., which has a location in Hunt Valley.

For these employers, the agenda will include manufacturing jobs — but a large part of it will focus on basic life skills and communication.

The absence of those skills in entry-level employees is a major issue for about 90 percent of the employers the Manufacturing Extension Partnership has heard from, said chief operating officer Mike Kelleher. The boot camp will address these problems before the workers get a job.

“If people aren’t interested in committing to that lifestyle then they don’t have to stay in,” he said, saving the trouble for employers later, who may have invested time and money in a worker who didn’t want to commit.

That’s a relief for Bensadoun. He wants to keep turnover down at his company, even raising wages and benefits — entry level workers at Pompeian make about $13 per hour. But the company has had to replace about 17 workers this year, mostly on the production line, partially due to a three-strike policy for tardiness.

“We are facing a huge issue because even with a skilled and motivated worker, something as basic as coming on time is very hard to achieve,” he said. “You cannot invest in someone if you don’t know how to retain him.”


About Lizzy McLellan

Lizzy McLellan covers finance, technology, start-ups and small business for The Daily Record.