Last updated on October 17th, 2019 at 10:48 am
It is now commonplace for college students to complete internships or other work experiences while they finish their undergraduate degrees. Waukesha-based Husco International Inc. is looking to take that arrangement to a new level, hiring students full-time as they enter school and paying for them to complete their degrees.
The Husco Scholars program will launch in the 2020-’21 school year. Students will take classes online engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville while also working at least 32 hours per week at Husco. The students would also complete labs at Fox Valley Technical College on several Saturdays each semester.
Husco already has a 100% tuition reimbursement program in place for employees that would also cover participants in the new program. The company requires employees to stay at Husco for three years after completing their degree. Employees who leave early have to pay back their tuition on a sliding scale depending on when they leave.
The program is an example of the lengths companies are having to go to recruit and retain talent in a tight labor market. Husco is not alone in offering a chance for students to work full-time while continuing their studies, Foxconn announced a similar ‘earn and learn’ offering for students at select campuses earlier this month.
“We needed to start doing more earlier,” said Jessie Cain, talent acquisition and development manager at Husco.
Austin Ramirez, chief executive officer of Husco, said the arrangement will provide a better outcome for students, who graduate without debt, and provide the company with more productive employees after graduation. Instead of joining the company with little or no experience, the scholars will graduate with four or five years with the company, including time spent rotating through a variety of operations.
Ramirez said Husco also expects that some students may start with a plan to earn a bachelor’s degree but opt instead to complete just an associates after a couple years in the program, opening up opportunities within the company’s technician roles.
“That’s probably, at least for us, the single tightest part of the labor market. Those folks are impossible to find,” Ramirez said. “So we’re going to be rooting for all of these kids to finish their bachelor’s degree, but I have a hunch that some of them will decide that finishing a two-year associate degree and being able to make $60,000-$80,000 a year might be a better fit for what they want.”
Ramirez added that Husco also sees the program as a way to recruit more diverse talent.
“We have struggled recruiting diverse talent, particularly in our engineering organization,” he said. “While this isn’t limited to people of color, we’re hoping it is an effective mechanism to recruit really talented kids for whom graduating college, it might take them five or six years, but they’ll finish with a degree, five or six years of experience, and a whole lot of money in the bank instead of a whole lot of student debt.”
Cain said the company originally thought it could aim to recruit 10 or more students into the program for its first year, but opted to set expectations a little lower.
“That might be the goal next year, but I think I’d be happy with anywhere from 2 to 5, at least for our first year,” Cain said.
She noted that it is important to have more than one or two students to start so participants will have peer support to lean on.