My name is Rogers “Old School” Casteal. I am the Face of Manufacturing.
This is My Story.

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‘I want you to be bigger than me’

Rogers “Old School” Casteal grew up in the 1940s in North, South Carolina, a town with fewer than 800 people. He was closest to his oldest brother and followed him around every day. Since his brother stuck close to their dad, Casteal, in turn, was always by his side too. His father was a proud man who worked hard to put food on the table and provide a home for the family. It wasn’t until Casteal was older that he realized his father could neither read nor write, but that didn’t stop him from making a name for himself and his family in their town. He’d say, “I’m the first welder in the county. You need to create a life for yourself and be bigger than I am. You have to be the first at something, too.”

‘While other kids were playing football, I was helping to build the family house’

When Casteal was 13 a neighbor gave his father an old, rundown house on nearby land. For several months, Casteal, his brothers, and their dad painstakingly disassembled the house board by board, salvaged the good wood, and moved it to their property to build the family’s four-bedroom home. “While my friends were playing football, I was learning to weld, about measurements and slopes, and built the walls and roof of my family’s house,” Casteal said. When they first started building the home, Casteal put up two pieces of the tin roof, but he was concerned he was not doing it correctly. Buoyed by his father’s encouragement, his confidence began to grow and Casteal finished the roof and then built a workshop in the yard. “Building things with my hands just grabbed me,” he said, “and it became my calling.”

His dad taught welding at night and at 16 years old Casteal began accompanying his father to these classes, where he started training people to work on machines. At the same time, his brother was working in a local steel manufacturing plant and helped Casteal get his first summer job. The job went so well that he was offered the same job the following summer, and then within a week of graduating high school was extended a full-time position at the plant.

‘I used to be known as “Slim”. Now they call me “Old School”.’

After working at the plant for a few years his supervisors encouraged him to go back to school. At 19 Casteal enrolled in the drafting program at the local technical college. “I found that my experience in the plant was easily transferrable to the classroom and that the knowledge I was gaining in class was helping to advance my career,” he recounted.

The classroom and on-the-job training helped Casteal out more than he could have imagined. When the plant he had worked at for years was closing, Macuch Steel in neighboring Augusta, Georgia reached out to plant management and asked for the names of their five best employees. Without hesitation, the plant referred Casteal.

A couple of weeks later, Casteal and his wife made the drive toward a new life in Augusta and his new job. When he arrived, there was an unexpected surprise. He discovered that in addition to his job changing, he’d have to change the nickname his friends gave him as a kid.

By his early teens, Casteal stood 6-foot-5 inches tall and weighed 190 pounds. His friends nicknamed him “Slim,” which stuck throughout middle and high school and all through his job at the steel plant. When he arrived at Macuch in his Blue Ford Explorer, one of the first guys he met had the moniker “Slim” sewn on his jumper. “We couldn’t have the same nickname, so I had to quickly make one up,” Casteal said, laughing as he recounted the story. “On the front of my Explorer was a plate with the name ‘Old School,’ so on the spot I decided to use that name and not only has it been my name for the last 13 years, but it truly fits my beliefs.”

‘It’s about the “Old School” Values’

Casteal quickly dispels any misconceptions people may have about what “old school” means. “When people first hear ‘old school,’ they may believe it’s about ‘old school’ thinking, but for me it’s about living by ‘old school’ values,” he said, “I love God, my family and friends, and my job. I’m a big believer in continuing to better my life and that it’s important to work hard for an honest day’s pay.”

In Macuch Steel, he said he found a family-owned company with values that match his own and that he has been very blessed to join such a strong, encouraging team and firm. “My team is special,” Casteal said. “They continue to grow and motivate me, just as I motivate them.”

‘I thrive off of giving people the opportunity to grow’

Casteal knows how important training is. Over the years he received training from his father, his brother, his companies, and was encouraged to return to school and continue his skills development inside and outside the workplace. He has now taken on the role at Macuch Steel of the quality and training manager. He says he continues to pass on his “old school” values and knowledge to his team, just as they were passed on to him by others. “Without training we would run into walls. It’s the greatest asset you can give to someone,” Casteal said. “Educate and motivate them and they will continue to enhance and grow as a person”.

According to the 2014 Georgia Manufacturing Survey*, 29 percent of manufacturers in the state spend no money on training. Among those that do pay for training, only 10 percent of training dollars went to new activities and tasks (not routine training). Asked about this statistic, Casteal responded: “We just put a team of people through the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech’s front-line supervisor training and the outcome is helping us advance ourselves and our company”.

“Maybe this is where my ‘old school’ values come in, but by doing this you are showing you care about your people and are also cutting down on turnover and costs to the company from having to rehire and retrain.”

‘Becoming a minister has changed my life for the better’

Five years ago, Casteal took his faith and his ability to motivate people and became a minister at his local church. He says he didn’t decide to become a minister, but instead it was a natural progression for him and one that his pastor and his wife, whom he describes as “the most incredible woman I’ve ever met,” encouraged him to pursue.

For him, by becoming a minister, he was able to gain a different perspective and has taken what he’s learned to his work environment. Besides his leadership ability he was now able to encourage and inspire his team in a new way. He says, “Through this I’m able to empower the company like I empower the ministry.” He’s often a sounding board for others at the company who want to talk about the difficulties they are facing and how he is able to advise them that all will face tough times but that they will only make everyone stronger. “I am here for them when they want to talk and I encourage my team to make the right decisions and continue to push themselves,” Casteal said.

‘I’ve been in industry 45 years and witnessing what technology has done for manufacturing is incredible’

It’s been 45 years since Casteal began his summer job at the steel manufacturing plant before his junior year in high school and he can’t imagine being anywhere else. “I’m in manufacturing because my dad gave me the opportunity to learn from him. I’m extremely happy with what I’m doing. I’m never bored and I know that there are always new challenges around the corner and I welcome them.”

A large part of the changes he has experienced are around technology. For the steel industry, he said it’s incredible to be a part of what modern technology has done to further advance it. “From Augusta, I am able to track pieces of steel being used on a job site in Atlanta, and through computer software, I am able to locate and make observations on particular beams within a structure and make adjustments from 200 miles away,” he said. He added these technologies could overwhelm people, since change can be difficult, but he returns to his own advice on training and that by keeping teams up to date, the advantages they create are endless.

“You need to reinvest in your people. Get them trained and continue to train them on new technologies, new process, and new ways of thinking,” Casteal said. “It will advance them and the manufacturing industry as a whole”.

About Macuch Steel

Founded in 1948, Macuch Steel Products is a fourth-generation steel manufacturer in Augusta, Georgia. During the past 65 years, the company has grown to more than 150 employees and has acquired multiple manufacturing companies and founded other enterprises related to its core business, in order to continue to provide additional and all-encompassing solutions to its customers. With the development of these further operations, Macuch Steel Products and its affiliates are known throughout the industry as “The Family of Steel”, providing structural steel projects from inception through completion.

*The Georgia Manufacturing Survey mentioned in this story is a biennial survey in partnership between Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University, and Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP
Georgia Manufacturing Numbers
Metal Fabrication Companies in GA
Jobs created by Fabricated Metal Companies in GA since 2010
Workers employed in metal fabrication-related occupations in GA

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