Second Chance Employer Profile
Vinyl Kraft Windows and Doors
With headquarters in New Boston, Ohio, Vinyl Kraft Windows and Doors manufactures vinyl windows for the residential and commercial market and sells them to distributors and window dealers. From four employees and 13,500 vinyl windows in 1992, Vinyl Kraft has grown to about 200 employees producing 150,000 windows in 2022. It is among the 100 top U.S. manufacturers of windows and doors.
As one of southern Ohio’s leading industries, the company employs three regional sales managers who sell throughout the Midwest and eastern U.S., an area that stretches from Virginia Beach, Vir., to Iowa and from Wisconsin to Georgia.
Vinyl Kraft plans to invest $2.25 million and hire an extra 40 or more employees through 2024 to expand its operations and run an additional shift.
Second chance hiring practices
The majority of Vinyl Kraft’s jobs are factory jobs, with employees doing assembly line work cutting and putting together windows. Employees work 10-hour shifts, four days per week. There are no physical requirements because the parts are fairly light. A high school diploma or GED is preferred but not required.
“If they have the core values of dependability and respect, they’ll be able to work here,” says Ryan Rolfe, executive vice president, who owns the company with his father and other investors.
According to Rolfe, “about 60% of the employees are in the recovery community. Drug abuse is the majority of these. Not all have a criminal record, but some are restored citizens.”
Although the company does a bit of online advertising, most of its second chance employees come from three local rehab clinics that recommend potential candidates.
The hiring process is pretty informal. “If they come in and give us an application, we’ll talk to them at that time. Or if they call us, we’ll ask them to come in for an interview,” Rolfe says.
The company does a background check after the interview. “Rarely, however, does it ever deter us from hiring someone,” Rolfe adds.
New hires get on-the-job training. Many of the job duties are such that after 12 hours the employees are ready to go. But certain tasks, like operating an automatic welder that welds the vinyl, take weeks of training. And some equipment takes more training, especially for trouble shooting.
The company has determined that it doesn’t need to offer any special services for its second chance hires, since a lot of these services are provided by the clinics that they’re associated with. These clinics continue to offer support after people are hired.
Vinyl Kraft Windows and Doors currently works with three clinics, and Rolfe says the company is determined that all the new employees it hires for its expansion will be second chance employees referred by these clinics.
Because southern Ohio has a history of being in the center of the opioid epidemic, there are a lot more clinics locating there and a lot of opportunities for companies in the region to be second chance employers, according to Rolfe.
Although the company is committed to second chance hiring, the process has had its share of challenges.
“The work ethic is good, but dependability can be a problem. Not showing up, and not showing up on time is the biggest issue,” Rolfe says.
“One of the main challenges is to try to be understanding of the employees and know that not every employee is ready to get back into the work environment. It can be challenging, frustrating and disappointing at times,” Rolfe says. “And if they have a personal setback, it can affect everything around them and derail what they have going on here.”
Because a 10-hour shift may be too long for those in recovery or reentry, one change that Vinyl Kraft is looking at making is to bring in two part-time employees to make one full-time job and bring them in earlier in the recovery process. (They’re now brought into work in the later part of their recovery.)
Although there are challenges, the rewards are worth it, according to Rolfe.
“If you find people who are in the right spot in their journey, they become very loyal to you as an employer. It becomes more than just a job,” he says. “When you hire restored citizens it’s like they have a debt and want to pay it forward and help the next person. And that creates a sense of camaraderie. Several people from the restored citizen community have advanced here, and they’ve had a decent career where they could make decent money and, at the same time, help other people.”
From a business standpoint it makes sense to hire second chance employees, and a fair percentage of the workforce in Vinyl Kraft’s area has gone through recovery. But for Rolfe it’s more than that.
“Hiring second chance employees gives our work more meaning. It’s affecting things other than just making windows that go into people’s home. It’s going beyond just providing a job to providing the structure and support within our organization that can be very beneficial to the people involved,” says Rolfe.