flexiblefullpage - default
Currently Reading

Education Is Win-Win for Fairmont and Its Employees

billboard - default

Education Is Win-Win for Fairmont and Its Employees

With about 900 employees, Fairmont Homes is one of the largest employers in north-central Indiana, which CEO Jim Shea calls 'the Silicon Valley of manufactured homes and RVs.'

By Meghan Stromberg, Senior Editor September 30, 2002
This article first appeared in the PB October 2002 issue of Pro Builder.
NHQ Silver
Capitalizing on People
Materials Management

With about 900 employees, Fairmont Homes is one of the largest employers in north-central Indiana, which CEO Jim Shea calls "the Silicon Valley of manufactured homes and RVs." Human resources director Rick Jones points out that Fairmont competes not only within its industry for labor, but also with other factories in the region. For Fairmont's labor base, taking a new job in a different industry because the hourly wage is slightly higher is an economic fact and quite common.


Director of engineering Tom Brandt (right) reviews new home orders with (from left) plant superintendent Steve Maisonneuve and assistant supervisors Nathan Yoder and Josh Isbell. Maisonneuve's plant decreased cycle times by 22% using lean manufacturing methods, team-based problem solving and increased employee training.

Employee retention is one reason Fairmont is committed to turning "unskilled" workers into valuable human capital. But investing in the personal growth of all employees is key to its mission statement and its goal of being a leader and good citizen in its community.

The company's most innovative educational program is the University of Fairmont. Through job-related training and on-site classes, Fairmont workers have access to high school equivalency programs and even two- and four-year degrees. In the past three years, 40 employees have completed the GED program through Fairmont, Jones says. Associate and bachelor of science degrees are offered through partnerships with Vincennes (Ind.) University and Bethel College (Mishawaka, Ind.), respectively. Classes are held Thursday evenings at Fairmont's clubhouse and are taught by college professors. Both programs are new only one associate's degree class has graduated, and the first candidates for the bachelor's degree in organizational management will graduate in May 2003.

Stan Rensberger, a production manager and 30-year employee of Fairmont, received his associate's degree (daughter Kelly was in the same class) and now is in the four-year program. He says he was confident in his job skills and his ability to manage people, but concedes he was computer-illiterate before beginning the program and was lacking in the structure and tools that could make him a more efficient problem solver and effective leader. "Everything can't be hands-on building," he says. "There are other tools we need to make this a top-notch organization."

He also says he wouldn't have gone back to school if Fairmont hadn't made it so convenient a point that Shea notes is key to the program's success, especially considering the plant's fairly rural location. Students also like that they learn with their peers in a mutually supportive learning environment.

Grants help pay for much of the education, but employees pay their share, too. And the work is not easy. Rensberger says he often writes eight-, 10- or 25-page papers.

These educational opportunities have helped Fairmont lower its turnover rate from 40% in 1999 to 20% today. That percentage is outstanding in the manufactured housing industry, and Jones points out that 90% of turnover happens within the 60-day probationary period.

leaderboard2 - default


Related Stories

Hamlet Homes' Mike Brodsky on Finding Successors and Letting Go

A transition that involved a national executive search, an employee buyout, and Builder 20 group mentorship to save the deal

Time-Machine Lessons

We ask custom builders: If you could redo your first house or revisit the first years of running your business, what would you do differently?

Back Story: Green Gables Opens Up Every Aspect of its Design/Build Process to Clients

"You never want to get to the next phase and realize somebody's not happy."


boombox1 -
native1 - default
halfpage2 -

More in Category

Home builders can maximize efficiencies gained through simplification and standardization by automating both on-site and back-office operations 

Delaware-based Schell Brothers, our 2023 Builder of the Year, brings a refreshing approach to delivering homes and measuring success with an overriding mission of happiness

NAHB Chairman's Message: In a challenging business environment for home builders, and with higher housing costs for families, the National Association of Home Builders is working to help home builders better meet the nation's housing needs

native2 - default
halfpage1 -

Create an account

By creating an account, you agree to Pro Builder's terms of service and privacy policy.

Daily Feed Newsletter

Get Pro Builder in your inbox

Each day, Pro Builder's editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Save the stories you care about

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

The bookmark icon allows you to save any story to your account to read it later
Tap it once to save, and tap it again to unsave

It looks like you’re using an ad-blocker!

Pro Builder is an advertisting supported site and we noticed you have ad-blocking enabled in your browser. There are two ways you can keep reading:

Disable your ad-blocker
Disable now
Subscribe to Pro Builder
Already a member? Sign in
Become a Member

Subscribe to Pro Builder for unlimited access

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.