Weyerhaeuser, one of the largest wood product companies in the world, will soon begin sponsoring students at OSU Institute of Technology to better meet the company’s workforce needs and demands.
Weyerhaeuser was founded in 1900 with three employees on 900,000 acres in Tacoma, Washington. More than a century later, the company now employs about 10,000 people in more than 100 facilities across the U.S., and Canada.
Melanie Freiberg is wood products human resources director for Weyerhaeuser and said the plant manager at the Idabel, Oklahoma location approached her about recruiting new employees through OSUIT. She and other company leaders toured the campus and several programs to see what the school could offer.
“We were impressed with the facility and class sizes. The work readiness approach the university took, and the focus not just on academics, but on safety and team work. The level of engagement, responsiveness and flexibility is really outstanding,” Freiberg said. “OSUIT’s approach is much more customer-centric and the willingness to partner and work together has been outstanding.”
Dr. Ina Agnew, vice president of Student Services, said after touring OSUIT the representatives from Weyerhaeuser didn’t just want to implement a student sponsorship program at the Idabel location, but take the program to the larger regional area.
“Our curriculum and equipment prepares the technicians with the skill level Weyerhaeuser demands. 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.”
The sponsorship program will start in Weyerhaeuser’s 13 facilities in its Mid-South and Central South regions with the goal of eight to 10 student sponsorships beginning the fall 2018 semester at OSUIT. While some students will be sponsored in the Electronics Technology program, the majority will be sponsored in the Instrumentation Engineering Technology program.
Students chosen for the sponsorship program will have their education costs paid for outside of any scholarships 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.
Freiberg said the need for the sponsorship program arose from the need to fill the ever-growing number of vacant positions in its facilities.
“It’s harder to find people and it takes longer to fill those positions. You can’t replace the workforce at the rate of those retiring,” she said, so she and others at Weyerhaeuser hope this new student sponsorship program at OSUIT will help fill that skills gap. “It creates an opportunity for young people in our communities. It gets our brand out there. If someone can get an education and work in the community and have a good paying job, it benefits everyone.”
And that’s ultimately the goal, Agnew said, for Weyerhaeuser to build their talent pool so when they have an open position, they can fill it immediately with a skilled technician from OSUIT.
“We want Weyerhaeuser to be completely satisfied with the skills level of our technicians so they will continue to partner with us to build their talent pool,” she said. “OSUIT benefits with the increased enrollment, higher retention rates and support from a company with a highly visible national and international footprint whose partnership with OSUIT validates what we do.”