Train 'Em, Retain 'Em
Steve Burkhart, CEO of Advanced Micro-Electronics (AME), used to get frustrated trying to find qualified job candidatesfor his PC maintenance and networking company, which is based in Vincennes, Ind. So in 1990, when his company had $1.6million in sales and 43 employees, Burkhart approached a local junior college, Vincennes University. He worked withVincennes faculty to create a computer repair program designed around the needs of companies like AME. "We tellVincennes about the newest, handiest thing," says Burkhart, "and they adapt their program to meet that need."
Vincennes students trained under this program comprise a pool of talent from which Burkhart often recruits full-timeemployees. In 1998, more than 50 of AME's 150 employees were Vincennes graduates -- including not just technicalemployees but also managerial and administrative staff. "To us, Vincennes is like a garden," he says. "We nurture it, and itproduces fruit."
Large companies have been involved in such "school-to-work" relationships for quite some time. But increasing numbers ofsmall companies are entering partnerships with local high schools and colleges, notes Peter Cappelli, professor ofmanagement at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. These relationships can benefit theschools as well as the businesses. Dean Ackerman, a professor of electronics at Vincennes University, says AME has muchto offer him and his students. For example, Ackerman trains with AME's technicians to stay current on the latest technology.
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