Talking Workforce Development with Skyline Champion’s President Mark Yost

Mark Yost Skyline Champion Workforce Development
Skyline Champion Corporation President Mark Yost speaks at the Innovative Housing Showcase in June of 2019.

Picture the president of a major U.S. corporation that employs 7,000 people and runs 38 manufacturing facilities nationwide in an off-hand conversation about business.

What is that person likely to say?

If you ask Mark Yost, president of Skyline Champion Corporation, the conversation won’t be about personal career achievement or positioning a brand or product.

The conversation is about a rare opportunity in manufactured housing for the person this particular president is talking to.

“I’ll meet someone at a rental car facility in a state where maybe I don’t have production or retail,” Yost said during a recent interview with MHInsider magazine.  “As I am meeting this person, I sense they have a good presence about them. I ask if I can talk with them for a moment and encourage them to look into our industry and ask them to go to work for one of my competitors.”

Yes, you read that right. Mark Yost is recruiting talent to his competitors.

New Skyline Home workforce development
A new Skyline home. Photo courtesy of Skyline Champion Corporation.

The Need for New Talent

Yost runs the largest publicly traded manufacturer of homes. But he sees the bigger picture. The bigger picture is a housing crisis and increasing demand coupled with an aging workforce and the ever-growing population of retirement-age talent.

“I see an industry that has phenomenal talent in every area, and that talent is getting to the point of retirement. And because the industry has been suppressed for so long there really hasn’t been an opportunity for a whole lot of new people to get in,” he said.

To combat the deficit, Yost actively engages with individuals and organizations to spread the word about the industry mission of building, placing, and promoting much-needed attainable housing.

“We are solving something that people today are very passionate about. And that is attainable, affordable, sustainable housing,” Yost said. “It clears up the number one cost burden anyone has, and when you can fix the cost burden of homeownership, it helps pay for all of those other costs, in feeding families and providing health care and education.”

Grassroots Efforts in Manufactured Housing

There is a need for a grassroots effort in every state. Talk with counselors, high school students, and young people attending trade institutes about the careers available in manufactured housing.

Yost also points to the men and women coming out of the armed services who are looking for a great opportunity in the private sector.

“When you get out and are looking for something, chances are wherever you want to live there is going to be a manufacturing plant, a retailer, a community,” he said of the enlisted. “Anywhere you want to live there likely is an opportunity for you. All it takes is one or two people talking among themselves. If you talk with most people about how they got into the industry, they typically say ‘A friend of mine suggested…’.

“Quite a few people who are the patriarchs of the industry, that’s the way they entered,” Yost pointed out. “Many times it was something that they received as a friendly tip, they anticipated being in the industry for a few months or a year, and here they are 30 years later in a position of leadership that they love.”

master bath
The master bath in a new Skyline Woodbridge model home. Photo courtesy of Skyline Champion Corporation.

Host a Trades Event for Young People

Last year, Champion hosted a day at one of their home building facilities. Students from a local high school came in to construct a small home that would be a prop for a holiday celebration.

Champion donated the materials and had experienced builders help with the project.

“Those students work hand in hand with our people and they have a great experience and go away saying ‘Well, maybe I should do that’. And that person can be a part of a company and part of an industry,” he said. “We’re a very entrepreneurial industry, and many millennials, in particular, are looking for an opportunity to create their own future, and I don’t think there is a better industry out there to help people do that.”