Attract, Recruit, Retain: Stellar’s Engineering Experience Program is Poised to Elevate Aspiring Employees to New Heights

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1/19/2024

Stellar IndustriesBy Mike Schmidt, AEM Director of Industry Communications —

When it comes to developing skills and creating a pathway for professional development, it’s like the old adage says, “there’s no substitute for practical experience.”

It’s why Garner, Iowa-based AEM member company Stellar Industries is working to take its efforts to attract and develop the engineering workforce of tomorrow to the next level through the launch of its Engineering Experience Program (EEP).

“At Stellar, we understand the vital role that practical experience plays in an engineer’s journey,” said Stellar President Dave Zrostlik. “Our Engineering Experience Program is a testament to our commitment to fostering young talent.”

Offering an engineering internship program isn’t a new initiative for Stellar, a 100% employee-owned-and-operated manufacturer of high-quality mechanic trucks, cranes, tire service trucks, hooklifts, trailers, and service truck and van accessories. However, in looking to enhance what it could make available to prospective interns, Stellar’s engineering, human resources, and marketing teams worked together to expand upon previous internship program-related strategies and tactics in order to bolster its recruitment efforts.

“Much of what the EEP offers is a direct result of asking past interns about what they find valuable or beneficial, then working in conjunction with HR and marketing to build upon what we were already doing,” said Nathan Meyer, design engineering lead for Stellar.

The collaboration led to the development of the EEP, a 12-week summer internship program which brings together a team of Stellar employees to work with students and guide them through various tasks and projects related to design, manufacturing, electrical, and quality engineering. EEP participants are tasked with working on computer-aided design (CAD) modeling, CAD drawings, electrical diagrams, technical communication, additive manufacturing, and more.

Ideal candidates include those currently enrolled in or who have completed a degree in mechanical, industrial, agricultural, process, electrical engineering or industrial technology. Interns select from four distinct tracks designed to offer a tailored, focused engineering experience:

  • Design engineering – Students collaborate with professionals to improve products through CAD and research and development.
  • Manufacturing engineering – Program participants receive hands-on knowledge in tasks such as shop floor documentation, tooling, and part flow.
  • Electrical engineering – Students develop skills in hardware and software design to support the development of new products.
  • Quality engineering – Interns help ensure the highest standards of safety and quality while producing top-quality parts.

According to Meyer, in addition to gaining practical, hands-on experience in various facets of engineering, interns are provided opportunities to engage different departments throughout the company in order to provide a more well-rounded view of Stellar and its culture.  

“During the last year and a half or so, we’ve really placed an emphasis on thinking beyond engineering,” he said. “We’re looking at not just what a student can do as far as being an engineer, but what they can do as far as being part of a company as a whole.”

Mapping out specific career paths related to skills and responsibilities is also a critical component of Stellar’s EEP. At times in the past, the company struggled to drum up interest in its internship opportunities. However, through consistently engaging students and soliciting input on how to make enhancements to its program, it was determined intern candidates needed to hear more from Stellar about specifics associated with the program – job duties, tasks and projects, opportunities for growth, and professional development.

Stellar“We recognized we needed to communicate and provide a path for engineering interns to take when they come aboard at Stellar,” said Meyer.

For an internship initiative like the EEP to be successful, the entire company needs to buy in and commit to making it work over the long term. It’s why Stellar is looking to facilitate opportunities for its interns to grow and develop, as well as become engrained in the organization’s culture.

“It starts with engineering and HR working together, but it’s expanding beyond that to involve everyone,” said Meyer. “Because you’re looking to attract interns to help you out for a certain amount of time, but you’re also looking to see if they’d be a viable long-term fit.”

Manufacturing will continue to evolve with time, and the needs of the companies in the industry will change with it. As a result, it is critical for organizations to be able to connect with the workforce of tomorrow, inspire them to strongly consider a career within their organization – hopefully – develop them into qualified employees. It’s a tall task, and it’s one that requires organizations to come together internally to develop practical initiatives – like Stellar’s EEP – for attracting and developing talent.

And, as older workers continue to retire from their positions in the manufacturing sector in greater and greater numbers, recruitment, acquisition, and retention will continue to become priorities of even greater and greater importance for manufacturers. It’s why Stellar looked inward and invested time, effort, and resources into transforming what was a really good engineering internship program into a great one.

“Th fact is, we’re competing against other good companies for candidates for quality jobs,” said Meyer. “This program is reflective of our company culture, and everyone at Stellar is committed to putting their best foot forward to showcase what our company has to offer.”

Learn More

Want more information on best practices, tools, programs, and resources to help attract and develop the right talent? Visit AEM’s Workforce Solutions Toolkit. To learn more about how Stellar Industries enhanced its engineering internship program, contact the company at hr@stellarindustries.com.

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