Hibbing, Minnesota — If you don’t have a four-year college degree, you’re hardly alone. The majority of U.S. working-age adults do not. But that doesn’t mean you have little chance of developing a well-paying career with benefits.
Minnesota-based L&M Radiator provides a variety of work-based learning programs, internships, and apprenticeship opportunities through its operations in Hibbing, Minnesota, and Yankton, South Dakota. L&M Radiator manufactures and sells legendary Mesabi® radiators, which are used with mining and oil and gas heavy-duty equipment worldwide.
“Our community-focused programs often result in paid working opportunities with the company, on-the-job training, benefits, coaching, and access to employee networks,” said Kelly Hertling, L&M Radiator’s Human Resources Supervisor. “In northern Minnesota specifically, these programs address our region’s skilled labor shortage and help us broaden our search for high-potential candidates.”
For a closer look, here are the community-oriented skill development and training programs offered by L&M Radiator:
L&M Radiator’s Work-Based Learning Program (WBL)
Teaming up with Hibbing High School, high school students in grades 9 through 12 can learn more about the skill of welding, which is a critical skill needed at L&M Radiator. Students participating in the high school’s welding course visit L&M Radiator’s Hibbing facility during their spring semester (about 3 days of the week at L&M) during which they learn and work through the product design process.
“To deliver their final projects, students have to research, collaborate and develop a concept they can prototype and test — I love seeing how excited they get when they share their projects with us,” Hertling said. “By investing our time and resources and guiding the students through the design process, they explore careers in manufacturing, sales, and engineering while discovering where their strengths lie.”
The Hibbing High School WBL program is a staple of L&M’s involvement in the Hibbing community. The program is entering its 17th year.
“With such positive feedback about our Hibbing program, about three years ago we started a partnership with Chisholm High School,” said Hertling. “Working directly with educators to provide a real-world work experience is a unique opportunity most high school students rarely get, but for some students, it can mean the difference between investing in college or starting a hands-on career right after high school.”
Hibbing High School Career Pathways
L&M Radiator partners with the Applied Learning Institute (ALI) and Hibbing High School, to bring students into the facility to explore different career paths and experience working in their different areas of interest.
“Through this pathway program, students earn credit toward their high school graduation, while providing our company an opportunity to showcase the benefits and careers we offer at L&M from finance to engineering and drafting,” Hertling said.
Reaching Young Talent in the Iron Range and South Dakota
In addition to partnering with local high schools to give students real-world work experience, L&M supports career fairs and offers a paid internship program for youth with the intent of retaining local talent on the Iron Range.
One of those events is Rock Ridge Career Days, where more than 50 high school industrial tech students tour the L&M facility and work on welding projects.
“As we move through each department, we incorporate how their welding project got designed and implemented,” Hertling said. “Their last stop is the production floor, where they create their projects using the processes they just learned about.”
While some students experience what it takes to design and create an L&M “product,” other youth participating in the IASC NEXT Career Pathways Program get paid to work at L&M during the school year in the company’s welding and machining departments.
“IASC NEXT Career Pathways Program pulls students from schools across the west side of the Iron Range, from Keewatin to Grand Rapids,” said Hertling. “Students selected for the program report to our facility and learn what it is like to be on the job.”
At the end of their school year, IASC NEXT participants have the option to continue working with L&M in a summer help role or become full-time employees.
“It’s more than a company partnering with a youth program, we’re building a pipeline for students who want to start building their career after high school by learning on the job, instead of attending college,” Hertling said.
L&M also partners with Iron Range Engineering (IRE), Itasca Community College (ICC), and Minnesota State University Mankato Bell Program to bring engineering internships to students throughout the school year.
In Yankton, South Dakota, L&M has established relationships with local schools and crafted similar work-based learning programs.
“We have two 18-year-old students working with us and earning credit toward graduation,” said Kristina Cap, a human resources manager with L&M Radiator’s Yankton facility. “It’s really a perfect match because these students are not looking at college after high school, so their internship is really us working with them to ensure a smooth transition into an L&M career after graduation. In the meantime, they can explore our departments and roles to explore what’s best for them.”
L&M Maintains Three Internal Apprenticeship Programs
“In today’s world, learning – through education, training, or experience – and working are no longer independent of each other,” said Hertling. “The innovation-driven industry L&M occupies demands that people weave learning opportunities throughout their careers to upgrade their skills and acquire new competencies.”
This work-and-learn model goes hand-in-hand with business-supported apprenticeship programs, a tool that connects learning directly to work and helps employers recruit, train and advance well-qualified employees.
L&M established three internal apprenticeship programs: welding, machining, and steel prep. These apprenticeships are part of the MN Apprenticeship Initiative (MIA), a state-funded program through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
“The MIA Program helped us fund and jump-start a robust internal welding and machining apprenticeship program,” Hertling said. “The push to establish this program was due to the shortage of skilled welders and machinists in our area.”
The apprenticeships teach and train entry-level employees how to become highly-skilled, productive, and safe employees. L&M apprentices earn while they learn, which helps to take the financial pressure off the apprentices. Currently, L&M has eight apprentices going through these programs.
“Our programs are recognized by the State of Minnesota, so when the apprentice completes his/her training, they become registered and certified in their trade,” Hertling said. “Supporting people in careers they love and getting them to that next level is our goal.”
L&M received a $25,000 Talent Development Program (TDP) grant through the Minnesota Department for Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to fund the classroom curriculum training portion of the welding apprenticeship program. L&M has also received a Manufacturing Grant through IRRRB that also supports classroom training.