Developing the skilled workforce of tomorrow requires a whole lot of effort and ingenuity on the part of manufacturers, and few companies are more committed to getting creative when tackling the skills gap than New Holland North America.
The Lancaster County, Pennsylvania-based global provider of agricultural machinery and its parent company, CNH Industrial, took a forward-thinking approach to workforce development in August when they teamed up with the local STEM Alliance to hold a three-day externship for 60 local educators. Externships are temporary training programs held in workplace environments, and New Holland's not only served to provide company officials and employees with a unique opportunity to network with area teachers, superintendents and department heads, but it also gave company staff a forum for promoting the value of STEM education in molding Lancaster County’s skilled labor force of the future.
“Our people believe it’s very, very important to have a good supply of talented high school students coming into the workforce,” said Peter Caddick, global platform manager for CNH Industrial and lead organizer of the New Holland externship. “And because they understand the benefit of this, they are willing to give up some of their own personal time for this cause. Not only do they want to see students and teachers be successful, but they know it will also add to the success of our organization.”
Preparing the Workforce of Tomorrow
About 120 company employees took part in the externship, an event which afforded local educators unprecedented access to New Holland’s manufacturing, engineering and commercial departments. There was a tremendous interest on the part of local teachers, superintendents and department heads in attending the externship, as 85 individuals applied for 60 spots available for the three-day event.
According to Caddick, the ultimate goal of the externship is to expose the teachers, superintendents and department heads in attendance to all aspects of New Holland’s ag equipment product lifecycle, as well as ensure they were equipped with a wealth of knowledge and insights to help effectively prepare students for future employment in an ever-evolving equipment manufacturing industry.
“Ultimately, as an organization, we have an obligation to try and better educate students and teachers as to the types of careers that are available in a large company like ours,” said Caddick, noting employees spent roughly a little over a year and more than 5,000 hours of their time and energy planning and executing activities associated with the New Holland externship.
“I’m so proud of our employees,” he added.
Showcasing Real-World Applications for STEM Subjects
One of the key objectives in hosting local educators for the externship event was for the company to provide quality examples of how STEM subjects can be applied to real-world manufacturing scenarios. According to Caddick, of the 1,000 employee positions based at New Holland’s Lancaster County facility, 90-plus percent possess some element of STEM. Whether it’s logistics colleagues moving parts and needing to understand advanced technology associated with the company’s barcoding computers, scanners or labeling systems, or its employees well-versed in fluid dynamics working out the flow of fluid grass particles, the situations and on-the-job applications where STEM-focused education comes in handy at the company are numerous.
Among the activities attendees participated in included one where they were asked to assemble a steel pencil box based on a set of basic directions provided by New Holland employees on hand. In addition, company engineers demonstrated how the combination of algebra, calculus and trigonometry are employed to ensure the head of a combine stays at the proper height when the machine is being operated on uneven surfaces.
The event also sought to emphasize the multitude of paths a young person in Lancaster County could take in order to prepare himself or herself to enter the workforce armed with the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve and sustain long-term professional success.
“Going to high school, then off to college and getting a degree, then entering the workforce, that’s not a one-size-fits-all option,” said Caddick. “When you look at the jobs at our company, I believe we’ve targeted up to 45 percent of the roles here to just require a high school diploma. So not every role here, by any stretch of the imagination, requires a four-year-degree or even a two-year degree.”
“The question we’re always asking ourselves and trying to answer is how do we, as a responsible employer, attract and develop employees capable of helping in that critical mission to feed the world by continually providing our customers with productive machines,” said Peter Caddick, global platform manager for CNH Industrial and lead organizer of the New Holland externship.
Expanding Workforce Development Activities
While there’s no doubt in Caddick’s mind the externship was a resounding success and positively impacted the company’s ability to reach the potential workforce of tomorrow in Lancaster County, he also believes the event was a starting point for the organization’s efforts to expand and build upon its workforce development activities in the future.
“This externship is not a destination or an end,” he said. “If we’re serious (about workforce development), and indeed we are, this is just a waypoint along our journey.”
According to Caddick, New Holland employees and company leaders are unequivocally committed to doing everything they can to communicate the fact that there are good, well-paying jobs available for the folks of Lancaster County, and that filling those positions helps not only benefit the company, but also the community at large.
Following the success of its recent event, CNH Industrial is now looking to replicate the externship event at other sites and continues to build relationships with school districts by offering three high school internships at the New Holland facility. In addition, a number of informative webinars will be made available for educators who participated in the externship to sign up and receive additional workforce development-related information, resources and support from CNH Industrial.
“To some extent, we took a leap of faith in investing as much as have,” said Caddick. “But we believe in it and, as we get some statistics to back us up, we will, along with others in the community, be in a position to say, ‘Look, this methodology works. We should be investing more, and here’s why.’”
Ultimately, Caddick believes New Holland and CNH Industrial not only have a responsibility to the community in Lancaster County to make sure young people are informed of the opportunities available at the company, but also to continue their mission to help feed the world through efforts to engineer and manufacturer innovative and productive ag equipment.
“Shame on us if the students in our community were forced to go elsewhere because they didn’t think there were quality, good-paying jobs right here,” said Caddick. “So the question we’re always asking ourselves and trying to answer is how do we, as a responsible employer, attract and develop employees capable of helping in that critical mission to feed the world by continually providing our customers with productive machines.”
Workforce development is among the key topics discussed at AEM's series of Thinking Forward events. For more information regarding upcoming AEM Thinking Forward events and locations, visit https://www.aem.org/think/.
To help proactively attract potential talent and bring awareness to the industry, AEM has developed a toolkit for manufacturers and industry partners to use in outreach to their local schools and communities recruiting the next generation of skilled workers. The toolkit can be accessed at http://www.aem.org/workforce-development-toolkit/.
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