AMP-Connect leverages supply chain management to help locals in recovery enter the workforce

September 16, 2020

It all began with a radio show on 95.3 FM. Producer and cohost Terry Houck, Jr. used his show to interview employers and educators about organizational culture and labor force development strategies. That led to the creation of AMP-Connect, a company that focuses on bringing industrial job-skill training to people in state-licensed recovery programs. We sat down with them to learn more about their business structure and vision.

Tell us about your business and the role you play in it.

Terry Houck, Jr. founded AMP-Connect in 2017 and Patrick Williams licensed the brand for the Western North Carolina market in 2019. Both are Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified and have executive-level experience in manufacturing and supply chain management. As a company, AMP-Connect works to elevate socioeconomically under-resourced communities by championing labor force inclusivity. And the primary focus of that mission has always been industrial job-skill training for people in state-licensed recovery programs. Ultimately, we want to help prepare them for independence by strengthening the likelihood of full-time employment after curriculum completion.

Where did your vision begin? How has it grown?

Our vision for AMP-Connect began with a WTZQ 95.3 FM radio segment produced and cohosted by Terry Houck, Jr. The basic premise was to interview employers and educators about organizational culture and labor force development strategies. Notable guests included Biltmore Company, Omni Grove Park Inn, UNC Asheville, Western Carolina University, Henderson County Public Schools, Asheville Regional Airport, Goodwill, AdventHealth, Highland Brewing, and Western Carolina Industries (WCI). After the segment came to an end, AMP-Connect was created to fill the need for entry-level support in Western North Carolina’s industrial sector.

Since then, our company has been awarded “AA” classification by Continental Automotive Systems, featured with GE Aviation and BorgWarner Turbo at the 2019 Aerospace | Automotive Summit hosted by Western Carolina University, and selected by UNC Asheville to coordinate PIC Math projects funded by the National Science Foundation [Grant DMS-1722275] and National Security Agency.

What has been your greatest challenge? Your greatest victory?

The greatest challenge for AMP-Connect has been the social stigma attached to addiction. There are certainly understandable concerns about health and safety in the workplace — which are addressed through clinical orientation processes well before job-skill training begins — but what most employers find in the end is that people who have committed to a licensed long-term recovery program are exceptionally eager to succeed. Which brings us to our company’s greatest victory. Over the course of three years, we have facilitated hundreds of manufacturing apprenticeships in Western North Carolina, and roughly 25% have resulted in employment offers at hourly rates above $13.00. And while 25% might seem modest, it is important to remember that the recovery centers we serve offer curriculums that take a full year to complete.

How has your business adapted or pivoted during COVID-19?

COVID-19 has brought unbelievable challenges to everybody. But one of the most damaging aspects for recovery is that frustration and fear of the unknown can pull some who struggle with addiction into relapse. Further, the quick scale-down of many businesses that might have
otherwise welcomed our apprentices has diminished job-skill training options for those who are not ideally suited to the performance expectations of manufacturing assignments. Though, to the credit of our current employment partners, COVID-19 has bolstered their
already remarkable capacity for flexibility — and appreciation for perseverance. In fact, several graduating apprentices have accepted full-time offers over the last two months alone. As for AMP-Connect, we are moving forward with assembling a network of HR professionals
and educators to launch our Mentorship Access Program (MAP) — affectionately known as MAP of Asheville. The idea is to provide career development guidance (e.g., negotiation skills, financial literacy, leadership fundamentals, etc.) to apprentices that express interest in
learning how to advance with purpose.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

To find out more about how we contribute to Western North Carolina culture in a positive way, please visit our website. We are working to form a co-branding relationship with a local hand sanitizer company, and will soon be posting “How To Buy” information on
our LinkedIn page.