Sandra Jenkins has been an employee of STI for almost 24 years and started here at the ripe age of 18. Over the course of 6 years, Sandra worked numerous positions in the plant, but then switched lanes in 1999 and joined the office staff in the Purchasing Department. In 2015, she transitioned to the newly created position of Human Resources Generalist.
Sandra’s main responsibility at this time as a HR Generalist is to recruit new talent. Having started with the company straight out of high school, she is more than qualified to speak about how STI can provide a career and livelihood to high school students that may not be interested or able to attend college.
Having been with the company for over 20 years and working a number of positions, Sandra (and a few others) coins herself as a “jack of all trades, but a master of none!"
Here is Sandra to tell us about a few of her “trades”:
What does a HR Generalist do?
“The title HR generalist means that I can ‘generally’ do anything related to HR. My main focus right now is recruiting employees for STI. It starts with the basics: you have applications/resumes that come in daily via email or on-site, then an interview and then hopefully an offer for employment.”
Can you tell us about the growth in staff you have seen since joining the HR team?
“When I started here in 1993, we had approximately 50 employees. Today, we are at 350+ employees. I have watched the plant expand many times over and that doesn’t include the additions across the street nor the warehouse across town. Now that we are a 7 day a week operation, we have had to add a lot of new positions and implement training for those positions. I am now in my fifth office if that tells you how I’ve grown with the expansion!”
What was it like for you starting with STI after high school?
“I was too young to take advantage of the 401k benefit because I wasn’t 21, so that was really funny! I didn’t envision STI to be my lifelong career. I worked at a department store and at my Dad’s textile plant when I was in high school. When I graduated, I needed money and insurance so I came to STI as a cloth inspector. I am the type of person to move onward to the next project or position, which has helped me get to where I am today.
When I started here, there were no computers in the plant – everything was hand written. As an inspector, I wrote tickets and shipped them. It is beyond me how the office staff was able to do it! When I found out that we were bringing in computers, I decided to take some computer classes and STI provided the support I needed to do that. It wasn’t long after that they offered me a position in the office.”
What was it like transitioning from the plant to the office?
“It was scary! I had been on the production floor for six years; I liked what I did and I liked the people I worked with. I was flexible, I could go out in shipping and load trucks or run the tables. Before I accepted the position in the office, I asked the President of the STI, “can I have my plant job back if things don’t work out?”, and he said “no, you have to make a decision and stick with it.” I have since used that same line with employees myself. You need to make a decision and stick with it. Make the best of it because it may not come around again. I came to the office and never once had any regrets. I left in 2007 when things were slow and an opportunity came up so I decided I was going to take it. I found out real quick the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I came by STI for a visit months later with my son and next thing I knew the ladies up front were babysitting my son while the HR Director asked me to come back. I walked in on Monday morning and asked the plant manager, “what should I do today?” and he said, “I want you to do what you’ve been doing the past 14 years.” I was gone for four months, but it was like I never left. I needed that boost to make me appreciate the things that I had and look at things from a different perspective.”
Can you tell me about your recruiting process?
“The HR Generalist/Recruiter position was brand new at STI when I started and we had just begun tapping into talent resources. My main goal is to find the Kevin Bacon of every community. I know that if I can find that right person, they are going to lead me to more promising people. I’m getting out there and I’m reaching people. This month alone I have five different events to go to; career fairs, manufacturing expos and even individual school presentations. It takes reaching out to these people and making a connection.”
When you are talking to students who are 18, what are some of the things you are looking for?
“The first thing I ask is, “what are your plans after school?” Every kid mentions college, but not everyone says “I’m going.” You can tell by their voice they want to go to college, but may not be able to. For the kids that don’t have a plan, I reach out and say, “our company has an opportunity for you.” I want to encourage these kids to go to college, not discourage… but if you’re not sure, until you get sure, come join our family at STI.”
What do you look for on a resume or application?
“Experience is not required to work here. They may leave out that they have worked at a fast food restaurant, but I can look at their past positions and determine what position would possibly be a good fit for them at STI. For instance, someone who was a fast food worker works at a fast pace and jumps from one task to another – they typically make great loom or warping creelers. Someone who has worked as an auto mechanic, that tells me they are good with tools and aren’t scared of equipment – they may fit in as a fixer or a tie-in position. Someone who was a machine operator had to pay attention to quality and isn’t intimidated by machinery – they’re a great candidate for a weaving position. Experience is not required, we train everybody. We train them on what STI needs. We don’t expect anyone to come in with textile experience, but then that may get you started at a higher paying position instead of entry level. Training depends on the position and is performance based.”
What do they ask you?
“How much money?!” and “when can I start?!”