Original Date: 04/20/1998
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Information : Engineering Development Program
ITT Aerospace/Communications Division (A/CD) implemented a formal program to train future engineers whose skills could be applied in any or all of the organization’s functional areas. This effort was accomplished by placing recent engineering graduates into a two-year program of rotational assignments and formal training. Previously, each functional area was responsible for internal skills development of newly hired engineers, resulting in a tendency to train and hold on to people. Since departments competed for assets, they resisted sharing personnel and resolved skill shortages by hiring externally. In addition, cross-training occurred only during team participation.
Established in January 1998, the Engineering Development Program (EDP) helps ITT A/CD’s Operations compete for high quality engineers internally and externally. The program offers added incentives for new hires to join the manufacturing organization. Provided as part of the rotational design of the EDP, networking facilitates rapid development and learning, and helps the trainees quickly establish relationships that will be useful throughout their careers. The company also implemented the EDP partly in response to the changing environment of DOD’s program funding constraints and downsizing efforts, which tends to place greater value on generalists as opposed to specialists.
Minimum requirements for the program are a general knowledge of manufacturing techniques and a bachelor of science or equivalent, preferably in manufacturing, materials, electrical, chemical, mechanical, or industrial engineering. In addition, minimal work experience is required since the positions are entry level. However, co-op experience is desirable in a manufacturing environment encompassing metal fabrication, microelectronics, and electronic assembly and test.
Trainees spend six months in four different areas: Manufacturing Operations (e.g., equipment, floor support, union interface); Operations Engineering (e.g., engineering interface, new technology); Quality (e.g., problem solving, customer interface); and Materials/Operations Planning and Control (e.g., supplier interface). At the start of each rotation cycle, each trainee reports to a mentor and is assigned a direct charge job. The trainees must be self starters and have a great deal of initiative. Assignments provide insight into each rotation-specific operational infrastructure, and offer a challenging work environment under supervision. Work assignments are of reasonable complexity, requiring a moderate degree of improvisation in the application of procedures and methods. The trainees are given a high degree of responsibility and authority during the training program including exposure to employee relations; equipment, materials, products, and money management; and development of internal and external business contacts. Performance reviews are done at the end of each rotational cycle, providing each trainee with four complete reviews during the two-year period. The Director of Operations Engineering oversees the program’s administration.
Although the EDP is new, ITT A/CD is already seeing the benefit of providing a well-rounded exposure to new hires and mutually deciding where they best fit in the organization based on demonstrated results. Departments can now share personnel through networking and planned movement of employees between functional areas. Skill shortages can be filled through a combination of hiring and internal skills development. Cross training can be planned more effectively, and trainees will gain increased exposure to the entire organization. The EDP’s first class of trainees has four engineers. The pipeline will be filled with new candidates each year, and these trainees will eventually become mentors themselves. Future plans call for sharing the experiences with local universities, so they can familiarize potential candidates with the benefits of the EDP and align the candidate selection process with the ongoing co-op program.
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