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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Caterpillar Exec Advocates for CTE at U.S. Chamber Event

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September 18, 2013

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Caterpillar Exec Advocates for CTE at U.S. Chamber Event 

On September 17, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (formerly known as the Institute for a Competitive Workforce) held a conference titled "Connecting the Dots: Education, Policy, Workforce." The event focused on how to better address education and workforce issues such as the skills gap. There were many good panelists and sessions but a keynote address provided by Kimberly Hauer, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Caterpillar, really resonated with me.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to participate in a visit to Caterpillar during the ACTE Region III meeting in Peoria where Kimberly and her colleagues hosted a terrific tour for Region III meeting attendees followed by a conversation about the worker pipeline and education-workforce connections. The Region III folks must have made an impression because Kimberly referenced them during her remarks, noting that she was humbled to meet these passionate CTE professionals and felt she "learned more from them about the state of CTE than they learned about the state of Caterpillar." She left the tour with a number of action items, and it was evident in her speech that Caterpillar, like many employers, is grappling with the challenge of finding qualified workers.

Kimberly's speech underscored the need to produce significant and sustainable change to address shortages in fields such as manufacturing and the skilled trades. She advocated that the focus on four-year degrees needs to be expanded to include multiple options for students as opposed to the "one size fits all" model that exists today, and she specifically encouraged development of programs focused on vocational skills. In addition, she made the point that the increasing emphasis on test scores is undermining  the emphasis on CTE.

The message is not new to the CTE community and reflects the mission of the Industry Workforce Needs Council (IWNC) which ACTE helped to establish (Caterpillar is a member of the IWNC, by the way.).  However, the public commentary from Kimberly as a lead HR professional for a large and important employer is the type of a advocacy that can help improve the issues she referenced in her speech. Kimberly said that Caterpillar advocates nationally and then works locally to improve training programs in the communities where their businesses exist. We need more employers doing the same!

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