Ralph Aragon has seen it many times before. He calls it that “deer in the headlights look” when a new hire arrives for the first day of work. With 18 years in the precast industry, Aragon still remembers the uncertainty he felt when he first walked into a plant.
“It’s nervousness because there’s a lot going on,” says Aragon, Production Trainer and Maintenance Technician for Jensen Precast in Lockeford, California. “A lot of the guys we’re getting now are maybe 18 to 19 years old, and they were either a student or their first job was working at Starbucks or McDonald’s, so it’s a whole different atmosphere from what they’re used to.”
A self-described “people person” who is comfortable anywhere in the plant, Aragon was the ideal choice to serve as the first mentor for the Jensen Precast Northern California Green Hat Ready Mentor Training program. The idea is to provide a solid foundation and sense of belonging for new hires coming into the Jensen Precast workforce. A precast plant can be an intimidating place until you learn your way around.
When new hires start, they are issued an orange hard hat for their first 90 days, so they are easily identified. The green hard hat signifies a new hire who has completed the 90 day training program.
“This was basically developed as a training program to allow our new hires to experience an introduction to the company and to develop and understand the KSAs—Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities,” says Heidi Bush, Human Resources Manager for Jensen Precast Lockeford. “The idea is to work with a mentor in order to feel comfortable with the job position.”
The first two trainees, Bryan Caldera and Roman Guillion, mentored with Aragon and received their green hard hats after completing a detailed, three page training checklist that begins on Day 1 and concludes on Day 90.
Working at Jensen Precast is the first full-time job for Caldera, who works on custom products in the specials department. “You feel a little lost at the start, but the training has helped a lot,” Caldera says. “When I got here, Ralph showed me pretty much everything that’s going on, and I’ve learned some things from other people too.”
Gullion came to Jensen Precast as a student who was working part-time at Starbucks. He currently works in the rebar area, cutting rebar and assembling cages.
“I’ve been here for probably three and a half months now, and it’s definitely a lot more familiar,” Gullion says. “When you are brand new, everything is kind of big and there’s a lot going on. Ralph’s program definitely helps to acclimate you with what you need to know.”
With 15 new hires lined up for Green Hat Ready Mentor Training, there is plenty for Aragon to do. While he is moving on to new workers, he made it clear to Caldera and Guillion that he will always be their mentor.
“Even if they’re here one year, five years, or 10 years, as long as I am here I am still helping them,” Aragon says. “Every day we are learning.”
Now firmly established in Lockeford, the program is scheduled to expand to Jensen Precast Sacramento, where new mentors have been identified and orange and green hard hats are in waiting.