June 3, 2015 | by Bob Weidner

To the Class and Industry Leaders of 2015

“We need you, we need your youth, we need your strength, we need your idealism…”

“Each generation sees farther than the generation that preceded it, because it stands on the shoulders of that generation…”                   

—President Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981 University of Notre Dame Commencement Address

In this season of graduations and commencement speeches, it’s hard to resist a call to action to both the new generation entering the workforce, and the metals industry members who may be hiring them. I am mindful today of President Reagan’s words when he spoke at my MBA graduation in 1981. His message resonates today as it did then. We hear a lot about Millennials and their new work culture, of an inquisitive, even restless generation looking for meaningful work, looking for a creative, flexible environment that accepts fresh eyes and fresh attitudes.

At the same time, we at MSCI represent an industry that fearlessly embraces change, technological innovation, a cleaner environment, and the wonderful people who make all this happen every day. Steel and aluminum are the most recycled and recyclable materials on the planet, and we continue to look for new ways to shrink our carbon footprint. We are justifiably proud that we are the doorway for making the stuff that makes so many things possible. We are science, engineering, art and business combined in enterprises that quite literally make all our lives possible.

Just as important, we are now aggressively looking for a new generation of creative employees. A new workforce of leading edge innovators with the talent, intellect and productive energy that will keep the American metals industry ahead of the global pack in the face of a gale of disruptive forces that are altering the way we do business. We are looking for dedication, for people who want to do meaningful, socially important work in these shifting times. We offer stimulating work that this country depends upon; work that we proudly understand is the heartbeat of this nation. And by the way, we pay well, promote on merit, and are constantly looking for new ways to incorporate state of the art technology into our businesses.

Make no mistake, we are looking for workers, not dilettantes, men and women who are not afraid to put on a hard hat and move 20-ton rolls of steel, or develop the software and laser technology that increases efficiency on a production line.  

“We must look at our industry and our workforces through a new lens, as always welcoming the opportunities to adapt.”

It has always been that way. I got into this industry some 30 years ago, clutching my freshly earned MBA. Those were challenging times for the industry and I figured the best companies would be offering an innovative work environment, stimulating projects and an early exposure to problems that my classmates—who went into advertising or banking—would not see for years. Inland Steel was just such a company back then and I learned a lot very quickly. 

One of my more valuable early lessons? Humility. I walk in, a hotshot MBA and one of my first assignments was: “Get the boss’ car washed, inside and out. He has important clients he is wining and dining tonight.” I learned to take what comes, but more importantly to jump in, volunteer and show that I had a solid work ethic and an appetite for new things. I learned that if you stretch yourself, you will have started on a lifelong journey that will take you where you want to be, wherever that is. And I humbly suggest, Class of 2015, that those lessons are as valuable today as they were then.

At the same time I would just as humbly urge my colleagues, the men and women who run MSCI member companies, to “jump in” as well. We must make sure we embrace our new generation of employees and the opportunities they offer for fresh thinking, creative solutions and expertise with social media and technology. We must stay alert and stay flexible to cope with the global forces of business disruption we are facing. We must look at our industry and our workforces through a new lens, as always welcoming the opportunities to adapt and use all our available resources to keep our businesses and industry ahead of the competition. 

So Class of 2015, step up and into our critical, innovative, environmentally responsible and rapidly changing metals business. As President Reagan also said in that 1981 Commencement Address, “We need you, we need your youth, we need your strength, we need your idealism…”