Nucor Steel, prides itself on empowering its employees to solve problems.

When the company was having difficulty finding qualified electricians, their maintenance managers decided to work together to find a solution. Six years later, one of those solutions has been implemented locally and is helping one local teen prepare for his first full-time job at Nucor Steel Florida Inc. in Frostproof.

Tommy Massey, maintenance manager at Nucor Steel Florida, said the pool of talent for industrial electricians who could work at a steel plant was very small six to seven years ago. He and other maintenance managers, who meet yearly, first decided to work with an Alabama technical college several years ago to develop a program to teach mostly high school seniors interested in the field, then bring them on as employees.

In addition, Nucor Steel Florida Inc. is working in partnership with Polk State College to develop training and educational programs to prepare their local workforce. Individuals engaged in initial training programs will earn nationally-recognized certifications and there is an interest in future training programs that result in associate and baccalaureate degrees.  Features highlighting local programs will follow.

Training programs like the three-year program in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, provides a fundamental education as well as the academic side of being an electrician, Massey said. They get hands-on and cultural training at a nearby Nucor plant.

He cited three reasons for partnering with Polk State and Shelton community college:

  • it had an established technical school,
  • it had an electrical program,
  • and it previously developed a similar program for Mercedes Benz.

“In Alabama, we just graduated our third class,” Massey said. “We have a pretty good success rate as they finish the program and move into electrical positions in the mills. They are working, helping us. They’re not meeting all our needs, but there’s definitely a steady stream of talent.”

The first summer there, students are exposed to Nucor, how they do things, safety and ownership, Massey said.

Students and their parents must sign a commitment that ensures the students will work at Nucor for at least three years following graduation from the academy — the same amount of time they spent in school.

One Student’s Story

Michael Chantharasinh, 18, wanted to go to Tenoroc High School in Lakeland, but because he was zoned elsewhere, he had to pick an academy within the school in order to attend. He chose the Power Academy, with a curriculum focused on understanding industrial electricity and the utility industry.

“I wanted to see what it was like to learn something new,” Chantharasinh said. “It turned out to be the greatest choice in my life.”

As part of the program, he got an inside look at Lakeland Electric and the city of Lakeland’s operations as a job shadow. “I learned the functions of how a city runs in terms of permitting and such.”

Before graduating from Tenoroc in May, Chantharasinh applied to be a Nucor academy student after hearing Massey talk there. He had never heard of Nucor before.

Chantharasinh said that in just six weeks at the academy, he learned that Nucor is focused on teamwork, safety and impacting the local area.

“Everyone is working closely together. Every morning at 7:30, we have a safety meeting. Communication is huge at Nucor as well. Environmental, too.” he said.

Although in Tuscaloosa now, he will work in Frostproof after graduating from the academy. That’s one of the draws for managers — they are encouraged to select students from their areas.

“We go out and recruit them,” Massey said. “The majority of students are selected and recruited from communities surrounding the mills.”

He said that going to high schools and area associations isn’t just a great way to find future electricians, but also a “great gateway for us to get into the community and for them to know us. We are looking for dedicated, hardworking, smart people. It’s a great entry-level career into Nucor.”

Nucor Steel Florida in Frostproof

Corey Allain, the controller at Nucor Steel Florida, said a majority of the management team — 33 people so far — is already in Frostproof, overseeing construction of the $240 million mill. “We send people who are going to build it and run it from the very beginning,” he said.

Most of those were transferred from other Nucor sites, although four to five have been hired in administrative roles, he said.

“We are well underway,” Allain said. “Everything is going smoothly. We are hiring vendors and contractors from the area and have a great relationship. We will have 450 total contractors who will work on this project.”

The Frostproof micro mill will hire 16 to 18 electrical positions, a few of which will be specialized. Overall, Nucor will employ about 250 people making an annual average salary of $66,000. It is scheduled to open the fourth quarter of 2020.

For additional information about this topic or how to become a partner with the Central Florida Development Council, please contact Lindsay Zimmerman at lindsay@cfdc.org.