By Kathleen Prosperi ’11
Jim Wible ’71, co-founder and president of American Colors in Sandusky, Ohio, has long believed in the potential of Alleghenians. Not only does he advocate for students as a College trustee, he believes the Allegheny graduate to be a quality investment for his company, having recruited and hired Gators since the company’s inception in 1975.
“I know that the skills it takes to handle the pressure of getting a degree from Allegheny apply to the business world as well,” says Wible. His company provides high-quality liquid pigment systems and other products to the coatings, composites, plastics and allied industries. It serves customers from two manufacturing facilities, one in Sandusky, and the other in Lebanon, Tenn.
Finding committed, long-term employees has produced challenges, and a need for change has blossomed into what appears to be the next revolutionary idea in corporate recruitment.
Jim Fitch, assistant director of career education at Allegheny, explains: “Jim (Wible) came to me and proposed hiring a group of graduating seniors as a team, interviewing and hiring them as one unit … a unit with a variety of majors, skills and talents.”
The hope is to promote future success and satisfaction at American Colors through pre-existing, forged relationships while nurturing a critical mass of Allegheny alumni who contribute as employees.
Invited to apply as a group, Tyler Hogya ’14 (Economics/Computer Science), Jordan Encarnacion ’14 (Chemistry/Economics), John O’Donnell ’14 (Economics/Communication Arts), RC Kunig ’14 (Biology/Economics/Psychology), and Elliott Hasenkopf ’14 (Chemistry/Economics/Biology) were one of four cohorts to express interest.
“Over the past four years, we have become great friends through living, working and playing together,” said Hasenkopf.
“Being able to come right out of college and enter the real world with four of your best friends seemed surreal. I was extremely surprised to hear of this opportunity, mainly because I’ve never heard of such a strategy before. It was new to all of us,” O’Donnell added.
The idea was new to everyone involved, including the hiring team, which was comprised of Wible, Matt Kosior, chief operating officer, and Kayla Beatty ’12.
“We saw huge, exceptional talent,” says Wible. “This group, the one we chose, was the most enthusiastic and seemed to have a cohesiveness that I liked.”
The benefits will be twofold—for the graduates and for American Colors.
“Over the last few years, after we hired students from Allegheny, we noticed they would say, ‘I came here [to Sandusky, Ohio] and didn’t know anyone. I’m having trouble getting involved in the community and finding it tough to meet people,’” says Wible.
Although other Allegheny graduates were pleased with American Colors, assimilation in other areas of their lives proved to hamper their overall happiness. That won’t be the case with this group. “These graduates will now get to go into the real world with an immediate support system. We hope this will provide them with a smooth transition into the workplace with a sense of belonging,” Wible says.
The students also see the benefits: “When entering the professional workplace, it is essential, not only that you have many positive relationships, but that you continue to build upon them while continually adding new ones. Our pre-established relationship will also allow us to feel comfortable more quickly in our working environment,” says Kunig.
“We see this as a potential for longevity for the company, as well,” Wible adds. “We are hoping that all five of the new hires will like and form a long relationship with American Colors.”
“I believe our team chemistry will translate into a professional environment seamlessly. Not only are we able to achieve goals together, but we also challenge each other. I think the ability to bring in five new workers who already work well together will serve American Colors well, especially in project-oriented tasks,” says Hasenkopf.
At this point, the future of group recruitment can only be imagined. After all, it is not the norm. The benefits can be seen as huge, though, for all parties involved.
“We’re hoping that it can become a model … that other employers who can do this will think, ‘What a great idea. …Why don’t we do this too?’” says Fitch. “If we had 20 employers who did that, we would have huge diversity in the types of job opportunities we are providing to students.”
President James H. Mullen, Jr. adds: “Jim is a great Alleghenian who has long been committed to affording opportunities to our students. In hiring this very talented group of our graduates from diverse disciplines, he is at once implementing a very innovative business approach and reinforcing the strength of Allegheny’s liberal arts curriculum.”
No matter what comes from this unique hiring strategy, the future is bright for American Colors’ new team. The team began its first day at American Colors. Each person had their own job description: Encarnacion, Kunig and Hasenkopf are project chemist trainees and Hogya and O’Donnell are operations trainees. However, it should be pointed out that they will have the opportunity to work on a project together as a team, to exhibit abilities learned at Allegheny.
As graduation day approached in May, Hasenkopf reflected, “As graduation is upon us, everyone has started to say goodbye to Allegheny and the friends they have made here, but we have this amazing opportunity which will allow us to see our closest friends every day. We are all very excited to hit the ground running and apply our Allegheny College educations to our endeavors with American Colors.”