Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools honored David Baron, plant manager at Gilchrist & Soames, a soap manufacturing facility, as its Business Partner of the Year.
The award is given annually to a county vocational technical school business partner for outstanding contributions to career and technical education. Business partners play a variety of roles, including serving on county vocational technical school program advisory boards, offering opportunities for students to gain valuable work experience, donating equipment, or serving as mentors and role models for students.
Gilchrist & Soames has been working with MCVTS cooperative education coordinators and the instructor of the pre-engineering and manufacturing program for the past two years.
“Dave has been a very an avid supporter of our pre-engineering and manufacturing program and a leader on the advisory committee,” said Diane Veilleux, the superintendent of Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools. .
Veilleux said Baron has worked with the MCVTS team to design a unique manufacturing paid mentorship program for seniors. Each student works in the afternoon at Gilchrist & Soames for three weeks, three hours per day (total of 45 hours) to experience the employment opportunities in the facility. Student jobs have ranged from line mechanic duties to optimizing automation, re-programming pieces on the manufacturing line,to updating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and more.
“Dave is a conscientious mentor who continually communicates with the program instructor to review each student’s strengths and career interests,” Veilleux said. “Then, they customize a closely supervised experience for each student.”
The collaborative program began in November 2018 with 11 students participating; it has grown to 13 students in the current school year.
Baron has since hired three program graduates to work full-time at the company’s two local sites in Sayreville and Rahway. Baron said he will be looking to hire more in the upcoming years.
“The students who participate in the program are better prepared to work for us than most of the applicants coming from the outside,” Baron said. “MCVTS trains the students in areas such as electricity and electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, PLCs and more that is exactly what we need. The students have an eagerness to apply their knowledge in a real word situation.”
Baron said each student also starts the mentorship program having already passed OSHA 10 training.
Veilleux said company executives at first were hesitant to implement the program because many of the students were not yet 18. However, once company executives realized that the students were well-trained in the technical skills needed in manufacturing and safety, Veilleux said there is now strong support across the company for the program and its success.
Baron has met with the MCVTS administration to discuss additional opportunities to train existing Gilchrist & Soames employees in the same curriculum as in the pre-engineering and manufacturing program.
“Dave is to be commended for his forward thinking, being an outstanding mentor and for his collaborative efforts with our MCVTS team and students,” Veilleux said.