Holland woman advances from job to career with workplace training

At 25, Shelby Baumann felt like she was stagnating in her manufacturing job. 

“It was a great place with lots of good people, but I just kind of felt stuck, and I wasn't really enjoying going to work anymore,” Baumann says. 

Moving up to a more challenging position wasn’t easy because she hadn’t gained many skills during her seven years with the company. Fortunately, she had a friend who helped her get an interview for a material handling position with Fogg Filler, a company that produces custom machines that fill all kinds of bottles.

Fog Filler in Holland, Michigan.Within three months of joining Fogg Filler, Baumann was making more than she had at her previous job. And in the past three years, she has earned a raise with each review.

Skills, responsibilities grow

During that same time period, Baumann’s skill set and responsibilities have grown, as well. She has moved up to material handling manager. She has taken classes in software, communication, and leadership. 

The most transforming education has been in gaining workplace communication skills. She has learned how to actively listen.

“I’ve learned how to communicate with different personality types, which I feel hugely helps me at work,” says Baumann, who is the only woman in her department. “I’m able to openly communicate and do it with the right tone and body language, so I’m not unintentionally being condescending or putting someone down.”

The majority of her training is through the state’s Going Pro program. 

In 2019, the Going PRO Talent Fund awarded $32 million in nearly 900 grants that helped pay for training more than 25,000 workers. Those new skills boosted hourly wages by nearly $3 to just over $27, an average annual increase of nearly $6,000, according to Michigan Works!
But funds for the training aren’t in the state’s 2020 budget. Fogg Filler is one of 350 employers across West Michigan waiting to hear whether the program’s funding will be restored. (see story)

Moving from what felt like a dead-end job to a career path has been transformative for Baumann, in giving her both financial stability and a sense of optimism about her future.

“It just makes you feel good in life and builds your confidence that you can conquer a lot of things,” she says.

Content and challenged

For now, she remains content and challenged with her current position.

“I don't know what God has in store for me, but right now my heart isn't ready to grow out of this area, because I love my crew and I love what I do,” says Baumann, who oversees a team of three.

As technology is changing the manufacturing workplace, Baumann’s success is an example of how continuous learning on the job is benefitting employers and employees. Baumann’s new skills are in demand beyond Fogg Filler, says her supervisor, Howie Steiber, materials manager.

“I've seen Shelby really grow,” says Steiber. “She’s gone from an employee point of view to a fully self-sufficient manager who could run a business with three times the staff.”

This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.
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