As future generations of engineers enter the workforce, they’re discovering opportunities in the industrial sector, even if they hadn’t previously known what all it has to offer. Thanks to efforts to increase awareness of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities at many schools and universities, more students are learning about careers in the industrial sector. Moreover, those efforts are strengthened by the efforts within the industry itself, where budding engineers are learning even more about the alluring opportunities in process control and automation.
Many aspiring engineers know about fields such as construction, welding, machining and other areas of need that we often hear about. Many aren’t thinking or know about what can be done with process control. Consequently, the lack of exposure to process control contributes to the growing need to cultivate future talent, according to Nicole Otte, director of workforce development for Endress+Hauser USA in Greenwood, Ind.
Otte, along with Devina Fernandez, workforce development specialist in the company’s Houston, Texas, location, spearhead the company’s efforts to make the up-and-coming generations of workers aware of all that process control careers have to offer.
“Process control is at the foundation of every product we use, everything that we encounter daily,” Otte explains. “I was just speaking to a group of middle schoolers and telling them that our instrumentation is what is being used so they can safely consume the food and beverages they like to eat and drink. They were really excited about it.”
Endress+Hauser has built a full continuum of workforce development programs to reach students from kindergarten to college. In addition, the programs reach beyond schools to non-traditional paths such as military personnel re-entering the workforce or career adults simply looking for a change.
One of the most significant initiatives of the past year has been the development of the Design and Innovation Studio in Greenwood, which extended its programs to younger minds.
Their experience is more than simple show-and-tell. The students actively engage with instrumentation and other tasks usually done by engineers for the company. They work with robotics and coding, and activities are usually done in the context of fun. For example, they’ll engage in a PTU® (Process Training Unit) scavenger hunt, 3D printing, or assembling a building blocks Coriolis flowmeter.
“There are lots of fun, engaging ways that they can learn about STEM and our industry,” Otte says.
The studio is a collaborative effort between Endress+Hauser and Purdue University’s Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC). Purdue established a series of Design and Innovation Studios through grant funding at several schools and three at other manufacturers in Indiana, but those three were automotive. Endress+Hauser inquired about establishing a studio for a different manufacturing and STEM-focused strand and was awarded a grant.
From these schools, eight are local school districts in the Southern Marion and Johnson County area from rural Indian Creek to suburban Greenwood, including the most urban and diverse school in the area.
The company also hosts classroom visits, organizes advisory boards for high school teachers and high school interns, and offers job shadowing. Meanwhile, they are engaging colleges where Endress+Hauser executives and personnel help with senior capstone designs and serve on advisory boards.
“Sometimes you get a request for 450 students, so we try to design an experience that breaks them down into smaller groups so they can see the PTU, and they can see the space here and go into the other areas, to be exposed to multiple STEM activities,” Otte says.
Another one of the company's exciting workforce development initiatives is the evolution of its college and high school internship programs.
Endress+Hauser has a 20-year history of internships. The program has interns from engineering to the business side and covers the full spectrum of all the different areas in the company, according to Fernandez.
Fernandez says Endress+Hauser is building a very robust learning experience for its interns, intending to build a future workforce.
“We look at how rigorous the projects are and the skills the interns should expect to have at the end of the summer,” she adds.
The company’s internship program focuses on meaningful experiences that ultimately helps build its talent pipeline. The goal is for interns to move toward working in the process control industry, with the company, its representative partners or customers.
“We had two interns who interned with us twice, one of which had an international internship in Spain,” Otte said. “The other one interned after his freshman year, and then did a co-op with us during his junior and senior years. They're both coming back as full-time employees into the rotational program in June. Very, very powerful.”
Some of those interns get an early start as seniors in high school. The new program sees high school students spend about 10-15 hours a week with the company.
Fernandez also mentioned the company’s Community Career+Education Forum where students, parents, educators and manufacturing professionals gather to learn about STEM and career opportunities in advanced manufacturing today.
This event takes place in both Greenwood and Houston with plans for several of Endress+Hauser’s local representative partners committing to host their own event.
Today, there are a variety of opportunities for each member of the education and workforce ecosystem to get involved. Cultivating the workforce of tomorrow starts with inspiring and educating the youth of today. With its various programs and on-site opportunities, at Endress+Hauser, the future is now.