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Train and Retain your Staff - Sharon Grant - Caterpillar

26 October 2020

Sharon Grant is the Senior Training Consultant at Caterpillar UK based in Peterlee, and has dedicated much of her time as a STEM Ambassador, to help inspire the next generation. 

Caterpillar Peterlee is the worldwide source of Cat® Articulated Trucks used in many industries including mining, construction, and aggregates. The facility's manufacturing activities use the latest computer analysis techniques, robotic technology, and a state-of-the-art paint plant. Machines from the site are shipped to customers around the world.  

With over 18 years of experience in secondary education, Sharon was keen to bring to her role as STEM Ambassador and her enthusiasm and passion for bridging the distance between education and industry and addressing an ever-widening skills gap. Sharon recognised the power held by business leaders to make a real difference and Caterpillar’s commitment to giving back its surrounding local communities, many of which have suffered three generations of unemployment, is inspirational and a hugely positive influence on social mobility.  

Whilst Caterpillar’s altruistic approach is unquestionable, the organisation also recognises the positive and tangible impact this type of activity can have on the company’s profitability. By consistently investing time into developing and creating a totally engaged workforce, the company has created a workforce who feel valued and happy at work and in turn are more motivated and productive. As such, a valuable Business/STEM Ambassador team has been created, offering members a range of opportunities for personal and professional development above and beyond that offered as part of an employee’s normal job role.  

Sharon has been with Caterpillar for two years and her first job was to add structure to the current Business Ambassador offer. Business Ambassadors complete an application process signed off by the applicant and their manager. As this is a voluntary element and additional to their work role, ambassadors must demonstrate time management skills. Once approval is in place an induction is given to demonstrate the resources available, the type of activities to deliver and what an inhouse STEM event looks like. From here Ambassadors shadow a STEM event and then support and deliver an event themselves, supported by Sharon. Sharon prepares a monthly update for staff showing engagement figures, a calendar of upcoming events and any shoutouts from schools needing support.  

Whilst an inhouse programme of support is foremost, Caterpillar are also beginning to consider their ability to support external events. This support must be selective as the company is focused on delivering targeted and impactful activity, specifically in the field of engineering and manufacturing.  

Sharon maintains a log of Business Ambassador participation and activities with impact achieved. Additional information includes areas and schools supported with this information fully reported to the company's Senior Management and team leaders. This ensures visibility and that staff support is fully recognised. By the end of 2019 almost 6000 individual interactions with young people from just under 50 schools was recorded. This activity ranged from primary and secondary school interactions as well as pupil referral units, special schools and home education groups. From these 15 young people were identified as potential candidates to work at Caterpillar and five made it through to the assessment centre and have completed their first year with the company.  

Whilst the training programme for the Business Ambassadors isn’t fixed, personalised training based on need is adopted. Past training has included mentoring from RTC North, supported resources from the STEM Ambassador Hub as well as activities with Durham Business Partnership, The Welding Institute and the Learning Curve group.  

Benefits of the programme for staff include the following:  

  • Professional development  
  • Opportunities to network both with colleagues from other departments and staff from other businesses  
  • Profile raising within the company.  
  • Demonstration of commitment to the business  
  • Personal skill development including communication, teamwork, presentation, leadership  

Sharon is passionate about the internal and external positive effects this type of programme has on all who take part:  

“Knowledge transfer is particularly rewarding. A standout moment was when we had some students from the pupil referral unit and they just wouldn’t get out of the trucks, they were completely fascinated being in the cabs and they didn’t realise you could get a job driving a truck for a living. It’s a great chance for spotting talent for the future and the earlier the better. As a head of science talking to children in school it always amazed me how many children didn’t know what opportunities were on their doorstep especially in STEM, including big organisations such as Caterpillar and Nissan that they just didn’t know were nearby. There are huge business benefits too. It helps with staff engagement and motivation which in turn helps with retention. It helps to nurture the internal talent pipeline as you’re helping staff develop a range of skills outside of their normal role. It’s also raising the profile of the North East and helping young people to find out about the range of career opportunities we have in our region.”  

To see Sharon’s full talk please click here: https://youtu.be/3HiMZ82MTqY  


About North East Ambition 

North East Ambition is an education and skills programme delivered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership that supports all schools and colleges in the North East to achieve the Gatsby Good Career Guidance Benchmarks by 2024. 

Working in partnership with education and industry, it aims to ensure each and every young person in the North East has access to quality careers education. www.northeastambition.co.uk 

For more information about North East Ambition and how it can help your company, contact neambition@rtcnorth.co.uk or the STEM team at 01915164400.  


North East Ambition

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