Representatives from Ohio CAT, a major heavy equipment dealer in Ohio, recently visited West Jefferson High School in the Columbus area to kick off a regional school sponsorship campaign to promote workforce development within the heavy equipment industry.

Exposing students to the opportunities at Ohio CAT specifically, helps us to ensure a steady pipeline for our training/educational programs,” said Jason Berens, an employment specialist at Ohio CAT who visited West Jefferson High School in the village of West Jefferson on Jan. 9. “When looking at the industry in general, the exposure generates interest and pride in building the world around us and helps to ensure that we will have enough people to succeed and replace the aging workforce as well as the additional workforce needed because of growth.

Ohio CAT will lead Workforce, Development, and Opportunity presentations at 10 schools in the Greater Columbus, Ohio, region, thanks to a partnership campaign brokered by Rocky River, Ohio-based marketing firm DistrictWON. To further publicize the partnership, the campaign also will feature fall, winter, and spring signage as well as PA announcements during school-year events. Both Ohio CAT and the local schools will promote the campaign through school social media posts.

The Ohio CAT sponsorship is a great way for our students to learn about different opportunities after graduation,” said Mitch Daulton, athletic director at West Jefferson. “For those that would be interested in a job right out of high school or after they are done with college, it is important for them to start thinking about that stuff now.

Having a partnership between companies and high schools offers a range of benefits, both for the students and the company,” said Shelby King, a counselor at West Jefferson. “It allows students to get a look at real-world jobs and career exploration. It’s also great to show students different paths you can take after high school.

Berens added that the school partnerships allow the company to address the ever-rising challenge of finding workers to fill roles within the heavy equipment and manufacturing industries. Ohio CAT provides new and used CAT equipment, rentals, engines, parts, and service to 16 different industries, including agriculture, defense, mining, construction, and the oil and gas industries, among others.

Things are turning around but we are still in a skills gap that has seen fewer people enter over the past 20 years,” he said. “We have created training programs within our company and in cooperation with post-secondary schools to address this gap. It is relationships that we develop and maintain with high schools that will feed the pipeline of individuals for our training programs. Without the schools accepting our partnership and allowing us to speak to their students, the talent pool would be significantly smaller.

Berens and presentation partner Craig Wellert, a technical training supervisor at Ohio CAT, pitched their workforce presentation to groups of senior high school students throughout the day, sharing their stories of how they each arrived at their current career destinations and what the industry, specifically Ohio CAT, could offer them beyond graduation.

There is a shortage of technicians in our industry and we have seen this coming for some time with the workforce aging and the focus of the education world to push college degrees. This has left us scrambling to fill good jobs,” said Wellert. “The problem is [also] to find the right kind of person to fill these jobs.

Wellert said that another issue facing the industry’s young workforce is finding opportunities and settings for apprentices to appropriately train with seasoned technicians to gain “much-needed experience.”

Both Berens and Wellert, however, told students that the sky is the limit when it comes to career prospects within the company, noting that roles can range from repair technicians, parts warehouse, and parts sales to accounting, human resources, marketing, and IT.

“There are opportunities within the company for just about everyone, Berens said.

Wellert added that while he did not take a traditional career route to where he is now, he has been able to balance his skills, background, and interests.

I have always been involved with this field in some capacity throughout my career and found that this was an excellent fit for me,” said Wellert, who found his place at Ohio CAT following a personal need for a career change after several years in the public education field. “My role at Ohio CAT allows me to still be in the education world but it also allows me to be involved with the equipment and construction world as well. For me that is the best of both career paths.

Speaking highly of Ohio CAT’s presence and service within the community, Berens said that the company’s employees take pride in what they accomplish in “building the world around us.”

Just take a look at the things we may take for granted every day,” he said. “The roads we drive on, the power we depend on, the buildings we work and go to school in – all things that wouldn’t be possible without our industry.