LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, recently received two grants totaling $14,000 to provide for five student scholarships and to acquire the VineUp software to facilitate a pilot mentoring program between John Deere employees and LETU students.
Seven LETU engineering alumni who currently work at John Deere have volunteered to participate, according to Paul Boggs, director of LETU’s Office of Sponsored Programs.
The purpose of the initiative is to create graduates who meet today’s workforce needs and to reduce employer training costs for new graduates. Also the goal is to ensure that LETU engineering students are gaining the skills required in the workplace during their educational journey and to improve student motivation and persistence to succeed at LeTourneau in their future careers. The program also allows LETU students to build a network of professional contacts in their chosen fields.
The Houston Chronicle recently reported that mentoring programs provide relevant experience, decrease employee turnover, increase employee morale, and enable companies to find future talent.
The new VineUp software program will enable the matching of mentors and mentees, based on personal and professional characteristics, and will facilitate their engagement throughout the program.
The first cohort of students to benefit from the mentorship will include students from LETU’s Honors College, who meet high academic standards including high SAT/ACT scores and high grade point averages.
“This population will have the drive and motivation needed for this initiative to be successful for both LETU and John Deere,” Boggs said. “The mentors will be given specific training and guidelines, since this has been found to be effective in mentoring relationships, with women as well as men in STEM fields.”
The program seeks to improve student readiness for employment by improving the LETU engineering curriculum, based on industry needs, according to Dr. Ron DeLap, LETU dean of the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology.
“Ultimately this program should be beneficial to employers who will have to spend less time and money to prepare new STEM graduates to be functional and productive in the workplace. We also expect this program to improve motivation and engagement in the mentees and improve the employer perception of readiness and effectiveness of LeTourneau graduates.”
Once the program is determined to be successful for employers, mentors and mentees, it is expected to expand into other academic areas besides engineering. LETU plans to seek additional grant funding and donations from employers to continue the program.
The program also includes research that will help determine the program’s success, including surveying both mentors and students on their perceived readiness of the students for the workplace before the project begins and after the project is completed. The student mentees will also provide feedback on skills and competencies they perceive students need in the 21st century on an ongoing informal basis throughout the program, so this data can be analyzed qualitatively for trends. Once these students complete the program, graduate and are employed, their employers will be surveyed on how well these graduates compare to other new graduates in their employ, to determine the program’s success.
The new software will be purchased this spring, with training over the summer and confirmed mentors and mentees announced by late summer. Mentors at John Deere will be trained over the summer to allow the mentorship to begin in Fall 2014 through Spring 2015.
Mentees can be in any year in school, but are only eligible to receive the scholarship once during their college career. Besides engineering majors, John Deere is interested in accounting, finance, computer science, management information systems, marketing and supply management majors. All participants must be eligible to work in the United States on a full-time, permanent basis.