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Caterpillar's CHIP Program Gives Students the Basis to Excel in Industry Post-High School

Wed March 14, 2018 - National Edition
Emily Buenzle


Through CHIP, students, who go to Caterpillar for class each weekday, have the chance to apply the skills they have learned in class, and Caterpillar can introduce new workers into the industry, The Peoria Star Journal reported.
Through CHIP, students, who go to Caterpillar for class each weekday, have the chance to apply the skills they have learned in class, and Caterpillar can introduce new workers into the industry, The Peoria Star Journal reported.

One industry giant is making strides in supporting technical education. The Caterpillar Hiring Innovation Program, or CHIP, works with high school students from Peoria's Manual Academy to ready them for careers in welding, The Peoria Star Journal reported.

This collaborative education effort is just one of many between Caterpillar and Peoria Public Schools. According to Caterpillar East Peoria facilities manager Adrian Garcia, CHIP is the latest piece of a program that started in 2010 when the company began its partnership with Manual Academy's manufacturing technology program, The Peoria Star Journal reported.

“It's a great opportunity for the school to leverage the manufacturing curriculum and for students to leverage manufacturing jobs in a way we have not done before,” Garcia said.

Support for the program has grown over the years, and includes equipment and supplies donations, volunteer mentors, a welding camp and a 2016 grant of $300,000. Through CHIP, students, who go to Caterpillar for class each weekday, have the chance to apply the skills they have learned in class, and Caterpillar can introduce new workers into the industry, The Peoria Star Journal reported. The program echoes the efforts of Peoria Public Schools to provide the workforce with additional skilled talent.

A New Approach

In 2017, the Peoria school district was chosen as one of ten school districts to participate in the Illinois Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program, an experimental state program to help better prep students for either college or their future careers, The Peoria Star Journal reported. Through the program, the district received a waiver from the state rule that says students must attend class for a minimum of five hours each day. In place of the classroom, the district can send students to a program like CHIP, where they will earn credit.

“I think this is the direction education is going,” said Manual Academy teacher Andrew Rice. “We're able to tell employers exactly what students are capable of, exactly what level of competency they've reached.”

Rice stays on top of the students' progress by making a weekly visit to Caterpillar, where he talks to supervisors and mentors who teach students skills like communication and leadership in addition to traditional technical training.

Of the students in the program, one works for Caterpillar as a painter, three as assemblers and four are in the welding department, The Peoria Star Journal reported.

For twin students Quan and Tae McElroy, this program will provide them with the groundwork they need to get an entry-level position in production welding after they graduate, or to pursue further education.

“I don't just want to be a welder,” said Quan. “I want to go to college for welding engineering.”

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