By Alan Gionet

FREDERICK, Colo. (CBS4)– One company in Colorado is turning the tables on hiring the best people for the job, and so far, it seems to be working.

“We’re a small shop we’re about 39 employees,” said energetic CEO Paul Harter. “Per plan, we’re down seven right now.”

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(credit: CBS)

Harter needs people and does just about everything to get workers. It shouldn’t be hard, his employees are happy and get support from the company.

“It wasn’t where I’m just a faceless automaton at a desk,” said Shawn McPeak. “I’m one of the people here, I’m a teammate, and that was a really great thing that they had and I really liked that that was part of it.”

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(credit: CBS)

McPeak is working in customer service and technical support. But how he got there is interesting.

Harter’s company is called Aqua Hot. They makes heaters for pricey RVs. The market is great and business is strong. The company has added a gym and volleyball court to retain people. It’s a supportive environment. Harter is positive about his people and loves to lead. But he has a problem with Colorado’s 2.3 percent unemployment rate.

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Aqua Hot (credit: CBS)

“We have to change the way that we think about talent. We have to change the way that we look at the work we’re asking men and women to do.”

Harter has dovetailed with job training facilities and colleges. He has placed ads and found a few people. But even with all that, he’s still short-staffed. Enter Skillful. It’s a program created under the Markle Foundation, backed by millions in Microsoft money from its philanthropic foundation to help people train for jobs and employers train for finding them.

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CBS4’s Alan Gionet interviews Aqua Hot CEO Paul Harter (credit: CBS)

Harter learned from Skillful that maybe his ads and his hiring managers were not doing the right things.

“Well, instead of just saying I want a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, three to five years experience or equivalent, which you’d see in an ad, they’re saying, ‘What is it that I want that engineer to do?’”

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(credit: CBS)

So, for that job, they changed their posting.

“What did we want an engineer to do? And a certified diesel mechanic looked at that and went, ‘I have all of those skills.’ And we hired him and he was a rock star, he did a great job for us.”

That employee was not an engineer at all.

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Aqua Hot (credit: CBS)

The reality of employment is many of us do not end up in jobs in our field of study.

“How many of us get degrees and we never work in the field?” asked Harter. “I have a degree in commercial art and this is what I do today.”

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(credit: CBS)

The company started to look at people who might have related skills and versatility.

“We’ve got two folks out of education working with our customer service team, because a big part of that job is the educational process of teaching a customer how to utilize a product, how it works walking them through troubleshooting trees, who is better to do that than a teacher?”

One of those is McPeak, “I just decided to apply for it and see what happens obviously.”

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Aqua Hot (credit: CBS)

A cubicle away is former education para-professional Jessica Painter, “The basic skills were there already so it was a pretty smooth transition from education to this.”

Both are glad of the change. Harter and Aqua Hot are keeping their minds open along with the jobs. When they think they find the right person, it’s not all about the degree, but often their degree of willingness.

LINK: Skillful

Alan Gionet is anchor of CBS4 This Morning and reports on a wide variety of issues and “Good Question” stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV or on Facebook.


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