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University pivotal to Edwards LifeSciences coming to Limerick

Nathan Tenzer says proximity to UL was a ‘major consideration’ in the medical devices firm’s decision to locate a new €160m facility in Castletroy.

A new €160 million facility for medical devices firm Edwards Lifesciences is being built in Castletroy because of the site’s ‘pivotal’ proximity to University of Limerick, according to the man heading it up.

Nathan Tenzer, Plant General Manager at Edwards Lifesciences, says that the site, which will throw open its doors in 2021, was selected over any other because access to UL and its graduates was “a major consideration”.

Last year, the firm announced that it was doubling its initial €80 million investment in Castletroy and would complete construction of a major facility by the end of the first quarter of 2021. 

The new state-of-the-art facility will see Edwards Lifesciences develop and manufacture sophisticated heart valves and medical devices, and will have 250 employed by the end of the next year, with the staff footprint growing to 600 by the end of 2024. 

And Tenzer says that it is the access to a “talent pipeline” of graduates that will be key to the firm achieving its Limerick goals.  

Will they all be UL graduates, Links asks?

“Of course, why would we hire from anybody else.

It is important that UL knows it was pivotal to where we chose to build in Ireland. It was a major consideration. It actually tipped the scales for us. 

“We wanted to have a proximity to UL and build a very close relationship. 

“We want to be a premier employer of UL graduates and we want to be one of the companies that says to them, ‘if you work really hard, you could end up at a company like Edwards’. 

“We want to build this talent pipeline because of the amount of growth I anticipate having within Edwards. 

“There are some key tenents to that and it requires a completely different mentality than I think most organisations offer.

Edwards Lifesciences GM in Ireland, Nathan Tenzer

 

“Some organisations are in a 'maintain mindset' – people are hired to do a job and they want them to sit still and do that job. 

“I have to build an organisation that is multiplying by orders of magnitude over the next six years and that means having a completely different mind-set to staffing. 

“I don’t want somebody who is just going to come in to do a job and that is it. They won’t be the right fit for us. I want them to grow with us as we can pull staff up through an organisation and we can backfill with new graduates and that is why they are so incredibly important to our organisation,” he adds. 

Having now built a relationship with the University, Nathan explains that Edwards is now in its second year of accepting co-op students. 

“That is something that we are really excited about because we know the talent that is coming through. If you want to work at Edwards, then the co-op programme is the best way for us to get to know you and for you to get to know us,” he explains.

“We want to walk away knowing that that person is someone that we want to be part of our organisation and hope that it is the same for them,” he adds. 

Nathan explains that the relationship, if suitable, is maintained when the student returns to college and “we stay connected and we tailor that connection to suit all of our needs”.  

As a participant in the virtual careers fair with dozens of enquires, Nathan says that the process “is a win win for everyone when you look at it.”

This is exactly the way we want to be going and building so that Edwards can be a premier employer in Limerick. 

The Californian executive, who has set up home in the Mid West since he took over the role of running the Irish operation two years ago, lives by the famous Abraham Lincoln quote - “The best way to predict the future is to create”.

Not alone does he “love” that quote, it is also how he has built the model for the Edwards plant in Limerick. 

“You have to know what you are working towards otherwise you are just fumbling in the dark,” he outlines. 

“You really need to plant a flag and say that this is what our aspirations are and this is what we are moving towards. If you don’t do that then you don’t have path. And ours is to have an extremely robust talent pipeline and let there be no doubt, UL is key to that. 

 

“Also what is key to that is that any position in Edwards, including mine as GM, can be backfilled with an entry level hire. What I mean is that somebody doesn’t come in at the general manager level straight out of college, but it does mean that we have a cascade where we pull people up through the organisation but at the end of that cascade is an entry level position where people can grow within our architecture. 

There is no limit to what you can aspire to even if you start at the bottom

“We would also like to be able to pull from opportunities globally because opportunities are not limited to these four walls that we are building in Castletroy. 

“I know we will be building future plants in Europe and in other global locations because of our growth projections and I want our team here to be at the tip of the sphere where we are looked on as experts. That way we become a very rich pipeline, not only for the company here but also for the company as a whole. 

“This isn’t a theory, this is how it works because I was actively recruited straight out of college in the US and I am with Edwards for the last 18 years. 

“People think that you have to work in a place for three to five years and then jump to the next company and then to the next company just in order to progress and move up. 

“Essentially, those are the theories that we have integrated into our organisational development plan – a lot of people think that we are just a factory to build medical devices, but we are also actually a factory to build talented people.

“We have a number of ways to do that and we use rotational programmes to allow people develop new skills and grow. We do this on technical tracks and then on business tracks for the support teams. Our people are our best asset,” he adds.
-  Andrew Carey