Steel plant quality and training manager mixes old-school values and technology to further employee careers
As a child in rural South Carolina, Rogers “Old School” Casteal learned an important lesson about not allowing personal setbacks to dictate one’s future.
Though his dad wasn’t able to read or write, he managed to become a welder — the first in the county — and provide for the family. “‘You need to create a life for yourself and be bigger than I am,’” Casteal said, recounting the important life lesson his dad shared with him. “‘You have to be the first at something, too.’”
It’s a lesson Casteal has never forgotten and one he incorporates daily as the quality and training manager at Macuch Steel Products in Augusta, Georgia. In that role, he trains employees on the latest technological advancements in their fields to help them advance and add to the company’s bottom line.
Casteal is the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s (GaMEP) January Face of Manufacturing.
He and the other 365,000 Georgians who work in the manufacturing industry are critical to the success of the Georgia economy. His story is one example of how those who have made a career in manufacturing help their communities remain economically competitive and viable.
“I thrive off of giving people the opportunity to grow,” Casteal said, explaining that comes from a desire to help others advance in their careers as his mentors helped him in his. It also stems from what he called “old-school” values. “I love God, my family and friends, and my job,” he said. “I’m a big believer in continuing to better my life and that it’s important to work hard for an honest day’s pay.”
It’s also good business. As someone with more than 45 years in manufacturing, he said he sees how technology and training go hand in hand to help not only the individual employees, but the company as well.
“You need to reinvest in your people. Get them trained and continue to train them on new technologies, new processes, and new ways of thinking,” said Casteal, who also is a minister. “It will advance them and the manufacturing industry as a whole.”
According to the 2014 Georgia Manufacturing Survey biennial study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University, and Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, 29 percent of manufacturers in the state spend no money at all on training. Among those that do pay for training, only 10 percent of those instruction dollars went to new activities and tasks — not including routine education.
“We just put a team of people through GaMEP’s front-line supervisor training at Georgia Tech, and the outcome is helping us advance ourselves and our company,” Casteal said. “Maybe this is where my ‘old school’ values come in, but by doing this you are showing you care about your people and are also cutting down on turnover and costs to the company from having to rehire and retrain.”
About the Faces of Manufacturing
Each month, GaMEP will highlight a different person as the Face of Manufacturing. Those chosen as the Face of Manufacturing will be selected by a 12-member committee composed of representatives from Georgia Tech, economic development groups, manufacturing companies, and related associations.