Real Change Wilmington recently toured Ahresty’s factory and sat down with in-house recruiter, Sherry Barrett, to discuss their senior leadership’s passion and commitment for providing employment opportunities for people who traditionally have a hard time passing a background-check due to felony convictions, homelessness, and or lack of transportation.
As a Wilmington native, Barrett herself was hit hard in 2008 when DHL left the airpark. Both Her, and her husband-at-the-time, lost their jobs, and had their family’s household income cut in half. This seems to be a harsh reality for many in Wilmington, but Barrett decided that this was an opportunity to go back to school and shortly thereafter, through a staffing agency, found a temporary position at Ahresty. “They really took a chance on me, my first manager hired me after only being with them for four months,” says Barrett.
Ahresty works closely with The Phoenix House on N. South Street to employ men who are part of their transitional housing program. The Phoenix House works with men and women who have drug and mental health related issues. Ahresty prides themselves as being one of Wilmington’s few second chance companies. As long as the individual does not have a felony that is sexual or violent in nature, or involves a firearm, they are applicable candidates for hire.
Other groups that Ahresty works with are people who are in, or have graduated from, former Judge Mike Daughtery’s addiction rehabilitation program, U-Turn, and women at the Hope House.
Barrett acknowledged that some of these hires that are part of The Phoenix House, U-Turn, or other rehabilitation programs, don’t always stay employed with Ahresty after their program is complete for various reasons. However, Ahresty is still committed to building into the community in this way, and helping people gain experience and leadership skills.
Other issues that employees face are transportation and childcare. Barrett said they have many employees who use the Wilmington Transit System (WTS), but this causes issues for 2nd and 3rd shift employees because WTS only runs 6:30am to 7:30pm. Barrett shared that employees with no transportation find ways to make it work, “They will walk, ride bikes, and once they get to know other associates will try to get rides together, if the cab is not an available option”. Ahresty is currently working with the Clinton County Workforce Collaborative to find a transportation company to come to Wilmington with the intent of helping 2nd and 3rd shift workers.
When asked about hiring people who are homeless, Barrett said that as a recruiter she is not allowed to ask if someone is homeless, but when she sees their address listed as the homeless shelter, she pieces it together. There is no judgment, much like their stance on hiring people from nontraditional backgrounds, Barrett said that Ahresty understands some people are just down on their luck, or choose to be homeless for their own reasons.
Ahresty’s focus is to get the right people hired and to help support the community. Barrett shared how their Vice President, Mike Fraizer, “loves the community, and wants to help the people in Clinton, Jackson, Vinton and other surrounding counties. He has been with Ahresty for 35 years and loves this community because he grew up here.”
Ahresty is currently working with several staffing agencies in Wilmington, Washington Courthouse, Lebanon, and Xenia to help employ people. Some of the biggest issues that people face when getting hired in is not having the proper documentation to fill out an I9, “You need an ID, or birth certificate, or social security card or passport. If you are homeless or struggling financially, and don’t have these items it can get expensive to get them” said Barrett.
Ahresty offers employees many benefits, including access to a recently renovated and fully stocked cafe area, fitness center, 401K, company paid life insurance, as well as medical, dental, and vision insurance. Barrett explained that there is a need for an onsite child care facility, to assist parents working 2nd and 3rd shifts and for calamity days at the local schools.
Barret shared about Ahresty’s ‘Helping Hands Program’, where employees can reach out to HR personally, or on the behalf of another employee, and can submit a request for financial assistance using money raised from company fundraisers. One employee who was behind on bills was referred by a friend, “we helped her get out of a hard spot. Then she came back to us and paid it back! She wanted to be part of Helping Hands and help someone else”.
As a company that has been in Wilmington for over 35 years, Ahresty does many things to make the community a better place to live. Ahresty partners with Clinton County Homeless Shelter to donate food and organize an annual sock drive. Senior leadership is always looking for new ways for Ahresty to be involved in the community. One such employee, Fadial-ghawi, who has been with Ahresty since before they broke ground, heads community projects like the Cardboard City and donates much of his personal time assisting at the Habitat for Humanity.
Ahresty is a Japanese company that was established in Wilmington in 1988 and has provided jobs for the county for the last 35 years. They currently have a staff of 700 employees working all three shifts making aluminum die cast parts for car manufacturers.