The following article was initially published on March 3, 2019 via The Courier.
WATERLOO — John Deere Waterloo Works’ is helping area youths open the gate to a successful career path.
As the largest employer in Waterloo, John Deere Waterloo Works is a member of the Iowa Business Council, which assists some of Iowa’s largest employers in programs to provide work, mentorships and life skills along the way.
“They’re trying to keep young people working in the state by showcasing the many careers and leading businesses in Iowa,” said Georgia Van Gundy, executive director of the Iowa Business Council. “And hopefully we keep them in the state of Iowa.”
Last year, IBC companies spent $37 million on training and education through internships and special programming.
“It gives them a better idea of what different careers are in the state of Iowa and whether they like them or not,” Van Gundy said.
John Deere Waterloo Works, which includes several subsets of the international company John Deere, has taken part in several programs to inspire, stimulate and reward youths in the Cedar Valley.
The Early Talent program is unique to John Deere Waterloo Works and gives qualifying students the opportunity to work full time for Deere during the four summers of their college career.
Students are assigned to departments based on their career fields of interest. Since 2013, four people who have participated in the Early Talent program are now full-time John Deere employees.
John Deere also participates in the Iowa Business Council’s Classic Upward Bound Program.
Upward Bound is a federally funded, nationwide program that prepares disadvantaged high school students to excel in high school and ultimately enroll and graduate from a four-year institution.
The Upward Bound program locally is administered through the University of Northern Iowa and serves the Waterloo Community Schools District and was launched during the 2017-18 school year.
Two-thirds of the students in the program must be both low income and also the first in their family to attend a four-year school. The other one-third must be one or the other.
Around 50 John Deere employees volunteer to serve as mentors for Upward Bound students. They meet once a month for a two-hour session in the evenings for discussion plus some group activities. Students are able to learn team-building exercises as well as business etiquette.
Several of the students have gone on to participate in the Early Talent Program, according to Megan Zuniga, senior communication specialist with John Deere Waterloo Works.
“These programs help grow students interests in not only pursuing STEM education, but all types of various career paths. The focus is on developing the next generation to enter the workforce, with an emphasis on being a change agent by growing and supporting student’s skills to enhance academic performance and motivation,” Zuniga said.