West Virginia’s first Procter and Gamble manufacturing site located in Martinsburg has been accepting job applications since October 2015, and now the first employees for the plant have been hired. By 2019, about 700 total employees are expected to be working on the site, but there are plenty of hoops to jump through before production actually begins.
At Tabler Station in Martinsburg, hundreds of construction workers have been moving massive amounts of dirt since breaking ground in September 2015 for West Virginia’s first ever Procter and Gamble manufacturing site. Once completed, it will cover about one million square feet and be the largest P&G site built in a decade.
Doug Copenhaver is the President of the Berkeley County Council. He says this plant is already having a major impact on West Virginia’s workforce.
“A project this size is a huge construction project," he explained, "so you’ve got to go to the people that can get the job done, and one of the things with P&G is they’re really proactive on trying to use as much workforce here locally, and not only locally but within the state of West Virginia.”
So far, over 5 million cubic yards of earth have been removed – that’s about 10 million tons of dirt.
The first bit of concrete is expected to be poured in January, and while the entire site won’t be fully operational for another four to five years, P&G representatives say by the end of 2017, the Tabler Station site should be moving employees into the location.
But what happens in the meantime? Well - lots of training.
Recently, P&G hired its first 26 employees, and by next fall, they hope to have 300 new hires.
Blue Ridge Community and Technical College is partnering with the company to help train those new employees -- 90 percent of which will be plant technicians, working with the machinery making the products.
Alan Zube, the Program Coordinator for Mechatronics and CAD, or Computer Aided Design, at Blue Ridge, led reporters on a tour of the three-classroom training area used by the new P&G employees. He’s in charge of leading a training program for all of P&G’s new hires.
“Every one of the employees that Procter and Gamble’s training for the entry level positions are coming through us for a three-week long for what they’re calling component training,” he said.
Zube says the component training is a mixture of electrical work, mechanical drive systems, and motor controls.
“It’s very rigorous," he noted, "I mean, that three weeks, they’re in here from 7:30 in the morning pretty much til 4:30 in the afternoon. We try to do a little bit of lecture, and then get ‘em over here in the lab, little bit of lecture, get ‘em over here in the lab; you know, I would say more than 50 percent of it is gonna be hands on.”
Procter and Gamble pays for the training received at Blue Ridge, but West Virginia has also pitched in with grants to help as well. And after that first three weeks, P&G employees continue to receive additional training as they move through their career with the company.
P&G also rents out a large warehouse on Blue Ridge’s campus where all the new hires learn to make the products they’ll eventually make at the Tabler Station plant like body wash, laundry detergent, fabric softener, and others.
22 year-old Pear Dhiantravan is one of the company’s newest employees. She’s already completed the initial training period.
Dhiantravan has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, and was hired as a Process Engineer with P&G. She moved from Chicago to Martinsburg in August for the job and says West Virginia is really growing on her.
“We had a beautiful fall, and I’ve been to wineries out here, and I’m really getting to know the area, and it’s like, gorgeous, like, I think it’s a really, really beautiful state,” she said.
Even though Dhiantravan is new to the state, 23 of the 26 new technicians are natives.
Starting pay for entry level plant technicians is more than $33,000 a year, that’s not including a $20,000 annual benefits package. P&G reps say that annual salary grows fairly quickly overtime, too.