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Neapco Notables | Shawn Hickman, Training Supervisor

Neapco is proud to have a dedicated Human Resources (HR) team that prepares new employees with interactive training programs, guidance and reliable mentorships. We believe in providing equal opportunities to all individuals, regardless of their background or education, and strive to create a positive work environment that encourages personal and professional growth at every level.

In this edition of Neapco Notables, we are highlighting Shawn Hickman, our Belleville plant’s October employee of the month and passionate Training Supervisor. With his prior manufacturing and military experience, Shawn’s proactive and efficient training approach makes him a valuable team member at Neapco.

Shawn walks us through his background, past experiences in the military, the lessons he values most about Neapco and much more.

How have your previous experiences prepared you for your role today?

I enlisted in the United States Marines and served for four years after graduating high school. Joining the military had always been a clear path for me, partly due to having family members who also served.

During my time in the Marines, attention to detail was crucial for comprehending various publications, controlled documents and orders. As part of my duties, I would audit battalions, identify efficiencies and inefficiencies and draft combat readiness reports. It was through this experience that I learned the importance of decision-making and attentive listening. Interestingly, I discovered that the automotive industry also places a significant emphasis on these skills.

After my service, I attended the Tauber Institute for Global Operations Leadership at the University of Michigan. There, I obtained certifications for continuous improvement techniques which proved to be advantageous while working on manufacturing production floors.

What drew you to Neapco?

For several years, I worked at an automotive manufacturing company as a team leader and supervisor but aspired to work for one of the “Big Three” —  the three largest car manufacturers in the U.S. In my opinion, it was necessary to find a position at the pinnacle of the automotive industry, which was at a company backed by the United Automotive Workers (UAW), a protection Neapco offered. The UAW emblem signifies that the products are manufactured by workers who are members of a labor union. This means that the workers have the liberty to express their opinions at work to negotiate collectively to enhance working conditions.

I started at Neapco as an operator and after a year, I was selected to be the first production advisor on the operations floor. The role was part of a new mentorship program and my performance as an advisor was evaluated for six months. Because of my success in the role, the team expanded the role to other team members. Today, there are currently a dozen production advisors selected from the operations floor and participating in the program. Looking back, I am proud to be the first to go through the program. I don’t have a college degree, so it was exciting to see individuals with similar backgrounds be given the opportunity to grow within the company.

In your current role at Neapco, what does a typical day look like for you?

As a trainer in the Belleville facility, I’ve helped build an interactive training dojo for the onboarding of new employees. The training mimics powered machine and material handling with hands-on controls, press operation and gauge tables. Currently, I have an onslaught of new hires that I train and evaluate throughout their 90-day probation until they are ready to convert. A day as a Training Supervisor consists of monitoring new hires, rolling out plant-wide training, creating work instructions and evaluating current processes.

Our training department in Belleville has also taken over the apprenticeship program for skilled trade and is working with the UAW chairman, the Department of Labor and the Henry Ford College. Although it’s new territory for us, the employees were selected from the production floor, so our engagement with them was already extensive. It’s rewarding to be a part of maximizing the potential of existing employees with a certificate that’s recognized statewide.

What is an important lesson you have learned during your time at Neapco?

The most important lesson I’ve learned from my experience at Neapco is the value of effective management and employee relations. My time in the Marines taught me to be process-oriented when it comes to standard operating procedures. However, after joining Neapco, I realized that training in a manufacturing facility requires a different approach to management. As a supervisor, I have learned that showing compassion and building strong relationships with employees is essential for success.

What do you enjoy most about working at Neapco?

What I enjoy most about working at Neapco is the company’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing automotive industry. The industry is constantly evolving, and Neapco has done an excellent job of keeping up with the changes. I am passionate about the work I do, and I appreciate that Neapco recognizes and values this passion. The company also does a great job of encouraging and recognizing employees, and I feel valued and appreciated for my agility and dedication.

How do you stay busy outside of the office?

My family and I are huge fans of the National Football League (NFL), and we especially love watching the Buffalo Bills play. When I’m not watching football, I enjoy backpacking in off-the-grid locations or camping and fishing with my family. When I’m hiking alone or with a small group, I love immersing myself in nature on a high, elevated peak. One of my most memorable hikes was Mount Le Conte, the third-highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. It was a pretty strenuous hike, nearly 7,000 feet in a single day, and I am proud to say I’ve conquered it twice!


Interested in joining the Neapco team? Click here to take a look at our open positions.