At Intertech Plastics in Denver, Colorado we live by the motto, “Molding a Better World. One part, one person, one community at a time.” For the last 30 years, Intertech Plastics has been actively engaged in youth employment and career pathways in a variety of ways, including youth mentoring, internships and job shadowing. We know that to have a successful, growing business, we need part of the solution to educate and train young people to help enter careers at Intertech, and also to create the next generation of opportunity and community leadership in Denver.
This mission becomes increasingly critical, as there are now nearly 6 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are both out-of-school and out-of-work around the country. Economists have found that long-term youth unemployment has effects that last far beyond today, with lower earnings for many years later.
I began Intertech Plastics thirty-four years ago as a student at University of Denver. Today, that business idea is real and Intertech Plastics employs over 200 people and operates 24/7 out of two facilities. We provide turn-key plastic injection molding, part design, engineering, assembly, and distribution for the medical, consumer and industrial markets nationwide. But that only explains part of what our company achieves every day.
We have partnered with community-based organizations like The Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation, Mile High United Way and the Denver Public Schools in our effort to make a difference in our community and help build our future workforce. This work is core to our culture, and is part of what has bound our team together during good times and bad.
This week, we were fortunate to have Secretary Clinton join us for an extraordinary day at Intertech Plastics. Secretary Clinton spent over two and half hours at our facility, touring our plant, meeting with employees and leading a round table discussion on youth employment. You could feel the electricity building among our employees as Secretary Clinton arrived at our manufacturing plant. She began immediately engaging our employees, asking questions, listening to answers, and entering into meaningful dialogue with every person she met as we toured the plant. In particular, I remember her interaction with Marissa Medina, a young Intertech employee and former trainee who is on her way to earning her GED, in which Marissa proudly showed her the skills she developed during her training at Intertech and what she has now moved on to achieve at the company.
During our roundtable with business owners, youth, and community leaders from the Denver Public Schools, Rose Community Foundation, and The Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation, we talked about the challenges facing small businesses in mentoring, training and hiring youth. Secretary Clinton made the point that “solutions to these challenges as witnessed at Intertech, exist today. However, creating a system that can be replicated throughout our nation is the opportunity” that all of us can work together on. I will be attending the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in Denver later this month, and plan to bring that message forward.
During the roundtable, I introduced Secretary Clinton to Oscar Olivas, a former Intertech trainee and ultimately a senior employee at the company, who I also mentored since meeting him when he was 8. Oscar put in his own words how he got exposed to a world that he had never seen before through his early job shadowing experiences at Intertech and how it helped him become successful as an accomplished professional today, but also as a father to three young sons. I showed the Secretary a picture of 13-year old Oscar when I took him to meet President Clinton in 1993. Although Oscar was slightly embarrassed (he is 31 now), the Secretary loved it!
At the end of the roundtable, Secretary Clinton made brief comments to our gathered employees. I must admit I got chills when she said the following: “The feeling I got here today, is that you have each other’s back. That you care about what you are doing and how you do it. That you have pride in what you do. You set a great example of how to 'mold' a better world!”
Needless to say, it was a proud day at Intertech Plastics!