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Reprinted from The Manufacturing Institute – Date: 03/1/2019

7th annual STEP Ahead awards recognize women for excellence in manufacturing

jen knowlton

Jennifer Knowlton
Director of Human Resources
Behlen Mfg. Co.

The Manufacturing Institute announced they will award Jennifer Knowlton with the Women in Manufacturing STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Award. The STEP Ahead Awards honor women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their careers and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry, from the factory-floor to the C suite.

Jen stated, “My passion for manufacturing was influenced early by my parents. In my role, I have the opportunity to work with a talented workforce, capitalizing on their strengths to provide a high level of customer service to our Partners in Progress (employees) and strive to make Behlen an Employer of Choice.”

For more than 20 years, Jen Knowlton has been involved in human resources management in the Columbus, Nebraska, area. This area has an extremely low unemployment rate, so recruitment and retention are key. In her work with Behlen, Jen has partnered with local workforce development programs, hosted on-site career fairs and developed employee referral programs. These initiatives have helped reach many potential employees who might not have realized the benefits of work in modern manufacturing. Today, Jen’s leadership, energy and new ideas have helped create an environment where people are willing to commute more than 200 miles round-trip, daily, for high paying, in-demand jobs.

In addition to Jen’s workforce development outreach, her attention to employee satisfaction has reduced turnover rates at the company by more than three percent. Initiatives that allow Behlen employees flexibility for better work/life balance, make Behlen an employer of choice in the area.

For many years, Jen has dedicated her time to the TeamMates program, which inspires young people to reach their full potential. As a TeamMates mentor, Jen has shaped the lives of three young women, from sixth grade through high school graduation and sometimes, beyond. Her weekly time with the girls may include addressing daily challenges, helping with homework, or preparing for college. One of Jen’s mentees struggled through high school and is now a successful business owner. Another is currently attending college to become a nurse.

Jen has also served on the board of the Columbus Area United Way, creating partnerships within the community to improve residents’ education, health and financial stability. Jen has helped lead efforts toward better structure and accountability within the agency, providing assurance that donations are being used to meet concrete goals.

CEO and President of Behlen Mfg. Co., Phil Raimondo shared his thoughts, “We have a wonderful opportunity to recognize the contributions that women make in the industry and share the exciting careers that are available to all women. Jen Knowlton has been an effective leader of our HR team bringing creative new ideas to help with recruitment and retention for our local and regional plant locations and provide support to our 920 Partners in Progress.”