Union Pacific is seeking a more diverse workforce as it strives to continue “building America,” as it says. To do so, it is partnering with The Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s workforce development and education partner, on a $3 million three-year joint initiative. Beth Whited, who serves as executive vice president and chief human resource officer at Union Pacific, recently told us more about these ambitious plans.
The details: The initiative, called Careers on Track, will work to inspire more women and youth to pursue modern industry careers. The funding supports workforce development and career solutions that will include:
- A new digital STEM curriculum;
- A virtual STEM experience—in which participants can “choose their own adventure” while exploring interactive 3D models of a real facility, locomotive and more;
- A STEM micro-grant program for young people; and
- A digital campaign showcasing industry career opportunities for underserved women in select regions.
Ultimately, Union Pacific intends to double the number of women in the UP workforce within the next 10 years.
Why partnerships matter: “These types of partnerships are important for us because they broaden our reach,” says Whited. “We run pilot programs of our own, but it’s difficult for us to make those available in every school in our served territory. With the MI’s broad reach and established programs, we can reach more women and youth than we could on our own.”
The scope: Whited likes to remind people that nearly everything in their homes moves by rail at some point, whether as a raw material or as a finished product. That also means there is a wide range of jobs involved, from skilled roles in transportation and manufacturing to civil, electrical and computer engineering—jobs that involve designing more fuel-efficient locomotives or building the freight cars of the future.
The tech: “People who don’t know much about railroads are always surprised by the level of high tech that’s employed,” says Whited. “Railroads have been around for 160 years plus, and so people think about it as old technology, but it absolutely isn’t.
- “You’ve got unbelievable signaling systems run everything safely, next-level optimization tools that determine how and when trains run, sophisticated technology in the 4,500 horsepower locomotives that we use to haul freight and so much more. The level of tech and advanced analytics and machine technology is usually quite startling to people.”
The pitch: Whited has advice for women who are unsure about working in a traditionally male-dominated field. “I would tell people to challenge their own thinking,” says Whited. “There aren’t jobs that are for men and jobs that are for women; there are jobs—and these are great jobs with great benefits that will help you fulfill your goals and give you a sense of pride. Come try it.”
The last word: As MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee said about this partnership, “There are nearly 500,000 job openings right now in manufacturing and millions more expected over the next decade. Closing the gender gap and building awareness with young people are critical to meeting this incredible need.”