In celebration of Mentorship Month throughout November, The Evening Sun will host a series of mentoring success stories twice each week from the Regional Mentoring Program at DCMO BOCES.The program was funded by a federal Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant in November of 2022, administered by the Southern Tier 8 Regional Board. With help from Commerce Chenango and the Delaware and Otsego Chambers, the program connected 62 high school seniors, from 16 area school districts, with local mentors in the private and public sectors.
Steel Sales Inc. : Commitment to mentorship starts at the top
For organizations like Steel Sales, Inc., mentorship is what family businesses do. During the summer of 2023, the organization opened its doors to a high school graduate who was eager to learn. Waylon Raymond, a DCMO BOCES Welding Program student from Bainbridge-Guilford Central School, connected to a team and a new career pathway thanks to a partnership between the DCMO BOCES Internship program and the team at Steel Sales, a family-owned, steel fabrication & distribution business led by Brenda Westcott.
“This business was built on traditional family values with a long history of employing people with the desire to learn new skills,” she said. General Manager Josh Newman shared the organization’s process for attracting young workers. “We like to bring young, motivated people to grow with the company and allow them to try different tasks to help them identify which path they want to take.” In the case of Waylon, the opportunity to try the job was supported by a financial incentive for employers to host a paid internship with mentoring support. “Waylon is a bright young kid who already had some experience. He was eager to work and we started him with some tasks in our warehouse,” said Newman. “We continue to move him to different departments to explore what matches his passion.”
According to Newman, Steel Sales has a team mentality that is connected to the family business culture. Their approach to attract young workers is to create an environment where new employees feel welcome. Because the organization uses a hands-on approach to learning, the practice motivates people to explore their own talents. Newman recalled his own experience, starting at the age of 20 in an entry level position and working his way up to General Manager, using the learning experiences with managers and staff who took time to coach him. The lesson he learned from that experience is simple. “To attract young workers, make the workplace pleasant and welcoming. Inspire your team to coach and guide new employees as if they are a part of a big family,” he said.
In this case, it seems to be paying off. After completing the Paid Internship Program, Waylon has stayed with the company and will now be shifting to other areas of the organization to learn different jobs. Newman believes that the mentorship culture of the company has played its role well. “Mentorship practices start at the top. The high level management sets the example and by doing, sets the expectations for the team to educate and train new employees as coaches and mentors,” he said.
According to Westcott, mentorship is key to attracting and retaining young workers. “Our company believes in giving young people the opportunity to learn hands-on, new skills and grow within our company. We feel this mentoring of our younger generations benefits and builds our community by offering well-paid local careers.”