Parts Life Helps Workers Achieve the American Dream

Attracting and retaining a quality workforce has long been a top business challenge for manufacturers. The Parts Life Inc. family of companies is no different—but its variety of workforce strategies have led to considerable hiring success.

The Moorestown, New Jersey–based manufacturing group—which consists of engineering firm Parts Life, armament support manufacturer DeVal Lifecycle Support and electrical manufacturer LC Engineers—offers a number of inducements for new and existing workers, President and CEO Sam Thevanayagam explained. Together, they are helping the companies, and their workers, thrive.

The plan: “We create an environment where [people] can achieve their God-given potential,” Thevanayagam told us.

  • After being inspired by several books—David Docusen’s Neighborliness” and Hernando De Soto’s “The Mystery of Capital” among them—Thevanayagam sought to provide workers with a range of benefits, some of them unusual for an employer to offer.
  • “In ‘Neighborliness,’ [Docusen] realized people need education, a job, health care and housing to be successful and build community,” Thevanayagam said. “So we are making sure we are offering these things to our people.
  • For example, Parts Life recently devised a financial program called Help U Buy, which helps workers buy their first homes. 

Helping the whole employee: Parts Life offers its employees a variety of educational opportunities to help them advance at the company and better their lives.

  • Approximately 40% of the workforce at DeVal Lifecycle Support is made of immigrants to the U.S., according to Thevanayagam.
  • To help employees learn the language, the Parts Life companies offer no-cost formal English courses with a trained Teaching English as a Second Language instructor. “It’s helped them not just at work, but in being better neighbors, parents and citizens, too,” Thevanayagam
  • The businesses also offer free basic financial management classes for workers.

Upskilling: Several years ago, when a nationwide shortage of trained machinists began to impede the companies’ operations, Thevanayagam devised a fix. Parts Life would “create” its own machinists.

  • “As difficult as it is to find a trained machinist, it’s even harder to find teachers” for machining, Thevanayagam said. Once Parts Life found and hired a machinist instructor, the company had him begin training other employees.
  • “Now he’s working with about 10 of our machinists—upskilling them, teaching them everything” they need to know, Thevanayagam said. “He’s sort of like a pitching coach, working with them on their technique and speed. That’s the model we’re using. … It really increases employee engagement and retention.”

Talent in the community: The Parts Life family of companies is also building relationships with local schools in an effort to find potential hires.

  • These include partnerships with technical high schools that offer welding and machining training and partnerships with local colleges and universities to source engineering and business talent.
  • “I look at [the partnerships] as building an entire ecosystem,” Thevanayagam said. “These are ways to be able to recruit and retain good people.”

Veterans: Lastly, Parts Life has had success in hiring from another pool: veterans. One of the reasons? It is willing to provide needed accommodations.

One recent veteran hire, a former U.S. Marine, had post-traumatic stress disorder and a substance-abuse problem when he was brought on board and “we were able to … get him counseling and get him a support system through veterans organizations,” Thevanayagam said.

  • “We try to be veteran-ready,” said Thevanayagam, adding that veterans now account for about 3% to 5% of Parts Life companies’ workforces. “These are people who have sacrificed for our country—and I want to make sure we are an environment where they can achieve.”

The last word: “The fact that we’re able to create meaningful work for people so they have the ability to … become part of the American dream—it’s a big part of who we are,” said Thevanayagam. 

Read more: As the 501(c)3 nonprofit workforce development and education affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute is a trusted adviser to manufacturers, equipping them with solutions to address the toughest workforce issues. Visit the MI’s site for workforce solutions insights and resources.

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