Want to Engage the Workforce of Tomorrow? Consider Your Community Outreach Opportunities



Feuling WorkforceBy Sara Feuling, AEM Senior Director of Construction  — 

Yes, it’s another article on workforce.

With record-high retirements and record-low birth rates, we won’t stop talking about workforce and the labor shortage anytime soon. Every day, we have more people eligible for retirement than we have babies being born. Our population is getting older, which means our workforce is getting older. Today’s babies are tomorrow’s workers, and it’s more important than ever for organizations to invest the time and effort necessary to attract quality talent. 

We can all take small steps to actively seek and recruit tomorrow’s workforce, as well as engage the future generation in our industry. I have found that one of the best ways to engage that talent is to make an investment in learning and development through community outreach.

AEM recently renewed its commitment to this outreach with a Volunteer Time Off (VTO) benefit. Through this benefit, AEM encourages staff involvement in the community and in lending voluntary support to programs that positively impact quality of life. In addition to group community service projects organized by our human resources team, AEM provides an additional paid day each year for staff to volunteer in their local community at a charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

I do a lot of my community outreach and engagement with STEM Forward, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit which aims to inspire local youth to pursue STEM careers and provide a pipeline of talent to businesses in Southeast Wisconsin. As part of those efforts, STEM Forward offers a series of outreach activities, events, and programs, including its Engineering Machine Design Contest (EMDC), ContraptWI, and Future City.

Earlier this year, I used the VTO benefit to participate in the EMDC. In the EMDC, teams of high school students from around the state design and build Rube Goldberg-like machines that accomplish a task in a creative and unnecessarily complicated way using a series of engineering steps. This years’ task was Power the World: Engineering Energy. I interacted with these students throughout the day, talking about the various skills they learned through the EMDC and connecting those skills to real-world careers and opportunities.

In addition, late last year, a group of AEM staff spent an afternoon reviewing and scoring essays for Future City. The essays are a culmination of weeks of research completed by teams of students as they develop and design a city 100 years in the future. Using the engineering design process as a framework, students apply specific engineering and project management methods to keep their projects on track, giving students a real-world learning experience that they can apply to future challenges in school, at work, and in life.

I volunteer at these and other events throughout the year, and I have done so for many years. I’m extremely grateful to be able to continue to engage with my community with the full support of our president, Megan Tanel, and all of the leadership at AEM. We don’t just talk about community engagement and workforce development at AEM, we live it. You can, too.

Now, not every company needs or will offer a VTO benefit. We can all still find a way to make a difference, one small step at a time. So, take the time, put in the work, and make the connection. I think we all can agree it’s worth it.

For more AEM staff perspectives, subscribe to the AEM Industry Advisor. 



AEM Blog, Workforce Strategies

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