With a current shortage of 500,000 construction workers in the United States, Cat Footwear is celebrating students who are choosing careers in the trade and as a way to encourage others to consider doing so as well. The license of Wolverine Worldwide is partnering with Caterpillar Inc.’s ThinkBIG, an instructional program that pays students while training in the field. The two-year program alternates between labs and classroom work, along with a paid internship at a sponsoring Caterpillar dealership.
The partnership kicks off this fall with Cat Footwear selecting three students from three community colleges to tell their stories and experiences while working in the program. Cat Footwear will amplify their stories across media platforms through sharing construction tips, school checklists, and inspiration for other students on this career journey. In addition, the brand will donate 500 pairs of shoes to students in the ThinkBIG program, host a giveaway for $300 to be used on CatFootwear.com, and offer a student and teacher promotion during the campaign.
“Cat Footwear values individuals who have dedicated their careers to construction—we wouldn’t exist without them,” says Lauren Heindl, senior marketing manager, adding that the partnership is a way to recognize students who are largely left out of the traditional back-to-school conversation. “We want to make sure we are supporting the next generation of these workers. Caterpillar’s ThinkBIG program provides a great way for students to develop their skills in construction and provides opportunities to expand their careers.”
That’s exactly what ThinkBIG is doing for Hanna Burl, who attends Mesa Community College in Arizona and is one of the students chosen to kick off the partnership. ThinkBig has taught her about engine rebuilding and electrical troubleshooting. “I’ve been able to further my career as a technician,” she says. “It’s really paid off, and it’s been very rewarding, especially learning a new skill set.” Burl adds, “I would suggest the ThinkBig program to anyone who wants to go into the trades.”
The other two students—Juan Ramos, who attends Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, and Nick Chauser, a student at Owens Community College in Ohio—concur on the value of ThinkBIG and the potential of a rewarding career in construction. “Through my training and working in the shops I’ve gained a lot of knowledge,” Ramos says. “I’ve learned how to properly rig heavy iron and a lot of technical skills, such as rebuilding engines, measuring components, and inspecting them to see if they’re usable or if they have to be replaced.” Chauser’s aim is for ThinkBIG’s training to enable him to become fluent in every machine, in addition to being able to diagnose and troubleshoot. “I’d definitely recommend this career path to kids coming out of high school, because there’s just so many opportunities right now in construction,” he says. “If you’re just ready to get into the workforce, there’s plenty of money to be made.”
Heindl says Cat Footwear plans to deepen and expand its partnership with ThinkBIG going forward. That includes outfitting students in the program with footwear to help keep them protected on the job, as well as sharing unique stories each back-to-school season as well as of those whose careers are moving onto their next stages. “Think graduation, first year on the job, and all the next big steps that come in the careers of those who choose construction,” she says. “Our goal with this partnership is to help students in construction feel valued and celebrated.”