Corporate Communications

Belden’s Blueprint: Addressing Labor Issues While Providing Employee Support

Labor is a hot-button issue in every industry right now. Whether you serve delicious meals, run a manufacturing plant or manage long-haul fleets, finding qualified, reliable workers is tough. Because vacant positions and extended hiring cycles can impact Belden’s ability to meet the needs of our customers, we do everything we can to find innovative ways to fill key roles.


Even prior to the pandemic (which has led to even more pressing worker shortages), Belden was building talent pipelines in unique ways, such as our internship program for current college students and the Early Career Leadership Program (ECLP) for recent graduates.


Our Pathways to Employment program—established in 2018—is another example of how we take distinctive approaches to recruit and retain workers. The program helps fill employment opportunities that remain vacant when applicants fail the drug tests we require in order to meet safety and technical requirements.


At our plant in Richmond, Indiana—a town of approximately 36,000—we’ve seen the first-hand impact of drug addiction. We needed to add capacity to our production lines because customer demand was increasing, but pre-employment drug screen failures were also going up, which was jeopardizing our ability to hire skilled, substance-free workers.


After we noticed this increase, we consulted with a prominent substance-abuse expert on how to address the issue. Together with program partners Meridian Health Services, Centerstone Behavioral Health, Ivy Tech Community College and Manpower, Belden developed a pilot project called Pathways to Employment to help potential team members who struggle with addiction get on the road to recovery so they can join the workforce.


Pathways to Employment is an 18-month program that offers a second chance to applicants who fail the pre-employment drug screen that’s part of our onboarding process. Instead of automatically being turned away, they’re offered the opportunity to participate in a personalized drug rehabilitation program. If they successfully complete the program—along with committing to a substance-free lifestyle—then employment at Belden is possible.


The program works like this:


  1. Manpower—our staffing partner—refers eligible candidates to one of Belden’s pre-established healthcare providers for substance-abuse screening.
  2. The candidate completes an interview and assessment. From there, a certified recovery coach and/or professional counselor determines the probability of the candidate suffering from a substance-abuse disorder. Based on that probability, a treatment plan is recommended.
  3. After experiencing progress, the candidate completes an employment readiness assessment program and learns how Ivy Tech Community College can provide preparation for gainful employment. A participant who has a high probability of substance-use disorder may be offered a part-time, paid internship at Ivy Tech Community College to support a gradual re-entry to the workforce.
  4. Through Manpower, the candidate is placed into a safety-sensitive role at Belden so they can earn a wage. The job could involve cleaning, organizing or 5S methodology initiatives.
  5. The participant agrees to adhere to treatment recommendations, complete random drug screens and discontinue substance abuse.
  6. After a period of time designated by the treatment provider, the participant graduates to a machine-operating role at our manufacturing plant.
  7. If the participant relapses and is transparent and honest about their struggle, then Belden will offer a second chance with increased treatment and support.


The program is also available to current employees who suffer from substance-use disorders.


Although Pathways to Employment helps Belden address workforce issues, it also helps our community and neighbors, too. We’ve been manufacturing in Richmond since 1928 and are one of the biggest employers in Wayne County, Indiana, so we want to be able to offer powerful incentives to help workers get and stay clean while also helping improve public safety.


Want to learn more about Pathways to Employment? Start here.