With his family and supporters around him, Evan Beechem signed on the dotted line to become a sponsored student at OSU Institute of Technology by international lumber company Weyerhaeuser.
The signing ceremony was similar to the kind that high school student-athletes go through when they choose a university and was attended by representatives from Weyerhaeuser including Glenda Moore, human resources manager for the Mid-South region, and Tony Bivens, mill manager of the Idabel facility.
Other dignitaries in attendance included Oklahoma Sen. Roger Thompson; Oklahoma Forestry Services Director and State Forester Mark Goeller; and from the OSU/A&M Board of Regents Chairman Calvin Anthony and Chief Executive Officer Jason Ramsey.
Anthony said the relationship between higher education and industry is very important, and the partnership between OSUIT and Weyerhaeuser is a great demonstration of that model.
“I truly believe that this collaboration is critical to developing an incredible talent pool today as future employees who may very well become the company leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
Weyerhaeuser, one of the largest wood product companies in the world, started the sponsorship program with OSUIT to better meet the company’s workforce needs and demands.
Bivens said the sponsorship program with OSUIT is an opportunity to fill the workforce gap in some of the skilled trades at Weyerhaeuser.
“Forming this partnership and this sponsorship with these young men and women is a wonderful opportunity and an excellent way for Weyerhaeuser to give back to our communities,” he said. “It also allows us to develop and strengthen our workforce. As technology advances, our workforce has to have some highly skilled technicians, and the students who come to this university are getting those skills.”
While some students will be sponsored in the Associate in Applied Science in Electronics Technology program, the majority will be sponsored in the Bachelor of Technology in Instrumentation Engineering Technology program.
Dr. Ina Agnew, vice president of Student Services, said OSUIT’s curriculum, the hands-on instruction by faculty who had successful careers in industry, and the equipment on which students learn enable graduates to meet and exceed the skill level Weyerhaeuser demands of its technicians.
“The company has invested a lot of money into their mills and are operating high-tech equipment using advanced technologies,” Agnew said. “Our students are able to transition into that environment and can be productive from the first day in the mill. And, we are only one of three ABET-accredited instrumentation programs in the United States, so our graduates will be able to pursue professional engineering licensure.”
The sponsorship program is being implemented in Weyerhaeuser’s Mid-South and Gulf-South regions, which includes 13 facilities in five states.
Students chosen for the sponsorship program will have their education costs covered outside of any scholarships and financial aid awarded. Weyerhaeuser will also provide paid internships as well as opportunities for paid work during school breaks. Upon graduation, students will then be offered full-time employment at a Weyerhaeuser facility.
Beechem joins seven other Weyerhaeuser sponsored students at OSUIT.
“I wanted to work for Weyerhaeuser because I’ve heard such great things about the company. I heard a bunch of people loved working there,” he said.
Beechem just started his second year at OSUIT and said it wasn’t easy at first but, with help from mentors and instructors, he’s back on track and excited about the sponsorship opportunity he’s been given.
“I’ve always loved taking things apart and putting them back together,” he said. “This has really helped me pursue my dream.”