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Collins Aerospace Gets Creative With Talent Recruitment

February 1, 2023 | Economic Development & Workforce

Young Professionals photo courtesy

Workforce issues touch every industry from health care to retail to manufacturing. Companies get creative with recruiting through social media efforts, job site visits, and job fairs looking for the talent they need to fill critical personnel needs. Collins Aerospace is no exception, particularly when it comes to supply chain professionals.

“The supply chain management industry is skewing a little bit older and getting closer to retirement,” said Zach Newland, one of the project managers for procurement with Collins Aerospace. “They’ve been in the industry for 20 years and offer a lot of experience. We need to find ways to continue having that brain trust and ensure we have the best pipeline for the talent of tomorrow. ”

To address this challenge, the company is taking a proactive approach with an innovative recruitment event. The inaugural Collins Aerospace Supply Chain Study Competition will launch in February, 2023, to engage the best talent in supply chain management. They’re reaching out to universities that offer a degree in this specialty to put together teams to compete in a ‘real world’ scenario.

Participating schools include University of Northern Iowa, North Carolina A&T State University, Central Michigan University, Kansas State University, Wayne State University, Texas Tech University, University of Nebraska Lincoln and University of North Dakota.

What will the competition look like? At a glance, each participating school will receive the same briefing four weeks in advance. This might include anything from supply chain disruption or purchasing allocation. The schools then select a team of four students tasked to put together a plan of action that details their best approach to this scenario, from financial details to an overview of their assumptions.

Participating teams will come to Cedar Rapids and present for 20 minutes in front of a panel of Collins Aerospace judges. They will be asked questions to determine how they can think on their feet. Then there will be 10 minutes of Q&A from judges to ask if they’ve thought the problem through thoroughly and give them positive feedback.

The judges will then choose their top four teams to go on to the final round. Those teams will have only one hour to figure out a new supply chain challenge – something like ‘one of your facilities closed down’ or ‘you incurred a $50,000 transfer fee so how do you make that decision quickly?’ Then the teams will do their final presentations.

“Our goal is to give the students an outside the classroom perspective,” noted Alex Latteyer, principle project manager for procurement who is part of the planning team. “They learn a lot of theory in class, but that’s not necessarily how it works in the real world sometimes.”

In addition to attracting the best talent in chain supply management, the event is meant to build brand awareness for Collins Aerospace.

Newland noted, “I’m not a native of Cedar Rapids. I grew up in the Des Moines area so I heard about Wells Fargo and Principal. I didn’t really know much about Collins until later in my undergraduate studies. We hope this event raises awareness and lets students know about the opportunities our company offers and show them the great opportunities Cedar Rapids has.”

The event isn’t all about competition. It also adds in a bit of competitive fun and time to connect. Participants will be treated to a dinner at the DoubleTree after the event and explore what downtown Cedar Rapids has to offer.

“We want to show them how cool it is and hear from other people who live here how much they like it,” Latteyer said. “They’ll also have networking opportunities with top management in supply chain and avionics. They’ll learn what internships and job opportunities are available. The competition will provide intrinsic value in real world scenarios but they will also be able to see that they might have a career opportunity that comes from it.”

The planning committee’s pitch to senior management for the event was ‘A direct pipeline to future talent for tomorrow’. This creative and proactive event stands to fulfill that mission.