• Featured Member

  • January 2019

    Vector Windows finds "Shining Star" in IS Intern

  • by Piper Cleaveland, SciTechsperience Internship Program

    There’s a common misconception among entrepreneurs and small business owners that because of their company’s size, they lack the time and financial leeway to hir0e, train and pay interns. Bridget Grenier, the HR director at Vector Windows, would beg to disagree. 

    “Oh that’s not true at all,” Grenier said. “We have 145 employees at our peak and most definitely benefit from hosting an intern. Our past interns have helped us develop processes, written instructions, studies and so much more.”

    Vector Windows is a small manufacturer in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Founded in 1995 under the name Vinylite Windows, Vector has since established itself as an active participant within the Greater Minnesota manufacturing and STEM communities. The company is a member of TSMA and has offered paid STEM internships since 2015.

    “We’ve been able to work with a handful of talented interns through the SciTechsperience Internship Program,” Grenier said. “It’s been a huge success for us. The application process is simple, and a huge intern selection and wage reimbursement is an added plus!”

    SciTechsperience was conceptualized by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and exists as a free entrepreneurial resource, designed to help small companies, like Vector, easily find and pay college interns. Companies that hire students through SciTech receive a 50 percent wage reimbursement at the end of each internship, up to $2,500, per intern hired.

    Since the program’s founding in 2012, small businesses across the state have benefited from hosting over 1,290 paid internships, each one its own unique experience. Participating companies not only choose who they want to hire but decide what they want their intern to accomplish. For Vector Windows, their approach to hosting a successful internship begins with finding the right person to join their team.   

    “First and foremost, we look at a cultural fit. If the intern doesn’t fit our culture and our Vector values, it probably won’t work out for either party,” said Grenier.

    Intern perspective

    Amanda Bentley, a former SciTech intern at Vector Windows, couldn’t agree more. “It’s important to understand and agree with the company’s mission statement,” Bentley said. “Vector Windows is a great company to work for. Their core values are exemplified daily through our employees as well as our customers.”

    Bentley was pursuing a mathematics major at Bemidji State University when she started her internship with Vector windows in late May of 2018. Like all SciTechsperience interns, Bentley was pre-vetted and approved for the program due to her above average GPA and industry related studies.

    When she came to Vector Windows, Bentley was already proficient in C++, Java, and Python programming languages, having also created various mathematical models using Minitab statistical software and Microsoft Excel.

    “My main responsibility [as an intern] was to improve our business system by utilizing all aspects of our software and supporting our customers’ requests for changes,” Bentley recalled.

    Some of her other projects included creating new images of Vector products with true-to-life proportions and details, simplifying the ordering process by adding more intuitive features, and configuring an application for customers to be able to order bay and bow windows through their online accounts.

    Vector saw value in the quality of work Bentley was producing and, towards the end of her internship, approached her with a newly created position, matching her skillset to the business’s needs.

    Shining star

    “Amanda is a bright shining star!” Grenier said. “Vector is lucky to have her join our team full-time. She is a hard worker, passionate about her work and others. And she has moved our technology systems forward in such a short time.”

    Now employed as a business systems analyst, Bentley primarily works with Vector’s FeneVision, a business system used to manage their manufacturing operations. Bentley is also leading the development of improvements for Vector’s order entry portal.

    Going on four years now, Vector has utilized internships like Bentley’s as a fluid pipeline for finding dedicated and passionate long-term talent. With the financial support from SciTechsperience, there’s no easier way to connect with the extra help that all small businesses need.   

    “Our internships have been very valuable to Vector and the interns,” Grenier said. “We learn and grow with each individual we have the opportunity to work with.”

    For Bentley, her intro to Vector Windows was more than just an internship. “Windows allow sunshine into homes and provide great views which improves the quality of people’s lives,” she said. “I am glad that I can help Vector Windows provide high quality products to our customers, to enhance their lives and experiences […] I am very thankful for the opportunities Vector has presented to me thus far and I look forward to continuing to grow with them into the future.”

    At least 350 wage matches are available through August of 2019. To learn more about SciTechsperience and apply online today, visit www.scitechmn.org.


  • December 2018

    Help Wanted: Four Steps to Change Manufacturing's Misperceptions


  • By Patty Hoffman, Alexandria Industries

    What can you do to help change the misperceptions people may have about manufacturing?   Disspelling manufacturing misperceptions

    Working in our booth exhibit at the Minnesota State High School Trapshooting Tournament, I was showing a student’s father some items we make, while also discussing the opportunities that exist around manufacturing careers. Out the corner of my eye, I noticed the student’s mother stick a finger down her throat as if she would gag at the thought of anyone working in manufacturing.

    This gesture stunned me. Because I know firsthand about the great careers available in manufacturing. Her impression, however disappointing, may be common.

    While it is clear to us as manufacturers that advancements in technology have revolutionized our work, we need to band together to find ways to get our messages through to those important to our success―our future workforce.

    So where do we start to help change the misperceptions about working in manufacturing?

    The effort may seem daunting, but to change the misperceptions, we can educate those we want to influence about what it is like to work in manufacturing TODAY. One conversation at a time, we can:

    • Share detailed information about the different roles and skillsets needed in manufacturing
    • Show our career opportunities, the education path, and ways to get started
    • Share facts about manufacturing – industry statistics, growth potential, jobs, career paths, wages, and benefits offered

    Working together, our efforts can help close the skills gap and ensure the future of U.S. manufacturing remains strong and continues to grow.

    Step 1: BUILD Relationships

    The first step to change misperceptions about working in manufacturing is by forming relationships with the people we want to educate – those who are important to our success.

    • Students
    • Parents and grandparents
    • Teachers
    • School counselors
    • Academic advisors

    Build relationships with students by meeting and getting involved with them on their turf.

    • Support academic advisory committees: Participate in academic advisory committees to set course curriculum and expose students to advanced technologies used in manufacturing.
    • Connect with students: Work with high schools and technical college students, providing projects, and bringing subject matter expertise and manufacturing solutions to their coursework.
    • Volunteer for Jr. Achievement: Meet with elementary students to build relationships and spark their interest in manufacturing a young, impressionable age.
    • Visit classrooms: Talk about manufacturing. Share things you make, and show images of your work environment. Spark their interest in wanting to learn how to make things.
    • Support student programs: Work with school robotics’ teams to provide engineering design assistance, financial support, and manufacturing assistance to create the fabricated components students need to build their robots.
    • Seek students where they gather: Exhibit at student events, such as the state high school trapshooting tournament, where 30,000 student competitors, and their parents, gather.
    • Connect with non-traditional students: Reach out to local homeschooling communities or online students – an untapped audience.
    • Educate influencers: Meet with guidance counselors and academic advisors, invite them to your organization for a tour, and share industry facts and details about manufacturing careers. Emphasize our need to change the mindset that every student should pursue a four-year college track.

    In every conversation with students, share information that is easy for them to understand. Talk about how they will work with their hands and build things. Tell them they could be the one to create a revolutionary medical product doctors would use to save lives. Share unique stories, such as this EdgeFactor video, to show how a life-changing event can lead to a medical breakthrough.

    Step 2: PARTNER with Industry

    Work with industry organizations to communicate your actions and the messages for the target audiences you want to reach. Many state and national organizations are participating in specialized efforts to change the misperceptions people may have and grow our workforce.

    What organizations can you partner with?

    There are numerous national, regional and state organizations working to share the message about great manufacturing careers.

    • Manufacturing Institute (National)
    • National Association of Manufacturers (National)
    • Society of Human Resources Management (National)
    • Society of Manufacturing Engineers (National)
    • Tri-State Manufacturers’ Association (Regional)
    • Enterprise Minnesota (State)

    A good example is the Manufacturing Institute’s Dream It. Do It. competition targets high school students to educate them on today’s manufacturing and available careers. Students work with their local manufacturers to create a video that explains, “What’s so cool about manufacturing?” Through the program, manufacturers meet directly with students who are interested in learning about manufacturing.

    Step 3: CHANGE the Image

    Those you want to reach may visualize manufacturing as it was during the industrial revolution. We can tell people about the transformations that have taken place. But until the dirty, assembly line, black and white visual representation of yesteryear changes, people may be reluctant to believe in the value of manufacturing careers.

    What can you do to help change the visual representation of manufacturing?

    • Make sure your manufacturing images (photos, videos, websites, stories, etc.) and onsite tours feature the latest manufacturing technologies, such as robotics and automation equipment.
    • Show a safe work environment in all of your communications and marketing materials.
    • Feature happy employees in clean uniforms, brightly lit facilities and colorful environments.
    • Host a tour. Show the product you make, your equipment and technology, to give people an accurate view of today’s manufacturing.


    Step 4: SHARE Best Practices

    Changing the misperceptions of working in manufacturing is not about recreating the wheel. It is about keeping the effort alive, fresh and productive.

    Go crazy. Get creative. Develop a video game that features a high-tech manufacturing environment maze with different levels to get through one-step at a time. Host a high school design contest, asking students to compete to build a better mousetrap.

    Commit to developing and sharing the ways you are changing manufacturing’s misperceptions. The opportunities to share today’s manufacturing message and the abundance of jobs are virtually endless.

    What will you do next?

    Start today! Take on the challenge. Work with other manufacturers and the organizations that support these efforts. One conversation at a time, we can change what people believe about working in manufacturing to help increase the number of skilled workers and grow our workforce.

    Share best practices. Do not worry about competitors stealing your great ideas. With 2 million job openings going unfilled over the next decade, if we do not find a way to attract employees, we will not have the jobs to fill. Period.

    What will you do to make the change happen? Let us know. Email your efforts and ideas to phoffman@alexandriaindustries.com. We will keep a list and share these in future newsletters.