Cummins TEC Opens Minds...And Doors
Berfu Alev and her "family" of female students in Izmir, Turkey, are changing perceptions of what it means to work in a technical career.
Like others in Cummins’ TEC: Technical Education for Communities program, family has been a motivating factor in their success.
“I think I can help other girls in the technical field,” said Alev, a student at Ege University. “I try to remove the stigmas and stereotypes associated with the ‘dirtiness’ of a technical career and highlight the state-of-the-art equipment that today’s professionals use.”
TEC is a global initiative by Cummins to address communities’ technical skills gaps through vocational education. Alev’s school is one of 14 TEC sites that Cummins and its industry partners have opened since 2011. In 2015, sites launched in Arequipa, Peru; Kohlapur, India; Brisbane, Australia; Perth, Australia and Beijing, China.
“The technical skills gap has created a two-sided economic problem in many of our communities around the globe,” said Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger, the company’s lead sponsor for TEC. “On the one hand, employers cannot find enough qualified people to fill critical technician roles. And, on the other hand, many able people cannot find good paying jobs.
“By helping young people obtain in-demand technical skills, we can expand employment opportunities and improve the quality of life in our communities,” he said.
The students participating in TEC come from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. Many believe the program is the catalyst they need to succeed and give back to their families – often the people integral to their pursuit of a technical education.
“Both my father and older brother left school early to work and have encouraged me to get an education so I’ll have a stable future,” said Mert Nahit Karakus, a third-year TEC student studying mechatronics at Ege University. “To have a job in the technical field is an opportunity that will totally change my future.”
Karakus was a summer intern at Cummins’ Filtration facility in Izmir in 2015. Workplace learning opportunities are a core component of TEC to ensure students engage in hands-on training before graduation. Across all TEC initiatives, 107 students participated in internships during 2015.
Come summer 2016, Karakus will be a member of TEC’s first graduating class, as will Meryem Zerouali, a 22-year-old student at the Morocco TEC site in Casablanca. Her interest in mechanics started at a very young age.
“It’s kind of funny because I didn’t have any technical experience before I enrolled in TEC, but I’ve always been curious about fixing problems in cars,” Zerouali said. “I can thank my uncle for that.”
As Zerouali and her fellow students graduate from the program, Cummins and its industry partners will measure graduates’ job-placement rates, knowledge retention, their compensation relative to a “living wage” and employer feedback on their skills and attitudes.
Zerouali feels prepared for her future.
“I’m confident that I will be able to get a job based on my current training at the school and at my internship,” she said.
Alev, meanwhile, will likely continue opening others’ eyes to what a technical career can mean and her example may inspire more young women as TEC expands to 20 sites by 2017.
“I believe that women employed in the technical areas will increase,” Alev said, “and people’s ideas about women in the workplace will slowly change.”