Position earned by on-the-job training


By Michele Gemelas

Guest Writer

Lance Mitchell at work at KEITH Manufacturing.Lance Mitchell graduated from Madras High School in 1991 and works as a team leader in the “tube shop” at Keith Manufacturing Co.. His shop makes hydraulic tubes that are part of the drive units they manufacture.

If you ask him who influenced him the most in his life, he doesn’t hesitate at all, saying, “My dad and my grandpa.” He credits them with his mechanical abilities and skills and, equally as important, his work ethic. He is instilling the same values in his six children.

Mitchell has been working since he was in high school. One of his first jobs was working for Dan Walston at Erikson’s market. He remembers choosing to go to work instead of playing sports because he needed money to work on trucks and cars, which was his true passion.

His parents made sure that he knew he was responsible for “funding the fun” during high school and that getting a job was important. His grandparents would occasionally lend him money, so that he learned how to responsibly pay it back. Once he started working, with rare exception, he hasn’t stopped. He has held several jobs, most of them for five years or more.

When he was in high school, he found that he most enjoyed classes in graphics, accounting and math. He lists Phil Comingore and Larry Larson among the teachers who most influenced him, and was so seriously considering a career in accounting that he spent a semester at Cenral Oregon Community College.

Through some soul searching, however, he realized that he needed to work with his hands and do something mechanical, and so after high school he spent several years working for a printing/graphic arts company, then at Bright Wood Corp. as a moulder operator.

He had applied for a job at Keith while working at Erickson’s, but no jobs were available at that time. Years later, after leaving Bright Wood Corp., he took a position as a plumber’s apprentice for a short time, but then he finally received a call from the human resources department at Keith.

He started in the “final assembly” shop at Keith in 2004, and since then, has moved throughout the organization with his duties changing over the years. He finds that besides the hands-on mechanical parts of his job, he enjoys using various computer programs like Excel, where he makes/modifies spreadsheets and relies on his knowledge of math and accounting.

Mitchell’s advice to high school students is, “Don’t be afraid to try something different. You don’t have to stay in the same job your whole life. You can change jobs within the same company too.”

Through his life experiences, he realized that college isn’t for everyone, but he has had significant on-the-job training that has helped him to continuously learn new skills, and has allowed him to keep working for a company that treats its employees well. He also happily has remained in Madras his entire life and is delighted to have celebrated his 10th anniversary with Keith Manufacturing.

Keith Manufacturing has been an important community partner in Jefferson County, offering internships to high school students, as well as engineering scholarships for $2,500 per year, renewable for up to four years. The company also guarantees its scholarship recipients paid internships for every summer of their four years of college. To inquire about these and other opportunities, contact your guidance counselor, or the Human Resources Department at Keith Manufacturing.