We asked Steven VanArsdale, general manager at Garmin's plant in Salem, Oregon, about how the firm structures its workforce development efforts. Garmin International, Inc., is a U.S. subsidiary of Switzerland-based Garmin that develops advanced aviation technologies, including differential GPS technology and more.

FDIFC: How does your company focus on diversity in engineering?

Steve: As a business, Garmin AT encourages our associates to participate in organizations which support increased diversity in technology fields.  Whether it is volunteering as STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] mentors and coaches, providing outreach to schools and organizations, or providing support to organizations such as ChickTech (a non-profit focused on increasing the number of women pursuing technology-based careers), Garmin AT and our associates are proactive in helping expand both interest and opportunities for those who previously may have not considered a technical career.

FDIFC: How does your company get the younger generation excited about engineering?

Steve: Garmin AT actively supports programs focused on increasing opportunities for youth to get involved in technology based activities and encourages our associates to do the same.  Many of our engineering staff are heavily involved in supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs in the local community. Garmin engineers coach, mentor, and serve as competition judges for First Robotics teams and events. Garmin AT hosts several events each year focused on providing First Robotics coaches with training and support. In addition, Garmin AT hosts site tours for elementary schools, high schools, and local youth organizations to assist educators in showing students how education ties directly to exciting careers in engineering and related fields.

FDIFC: How do we help students get real-world experience?

Steve: Garmin AT offers a variety of engineering internship opportunities. As an active member of the non-profit Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program (MECOP), Garmin AT supports and helps manage an engineering cooperative program which places over 600 interns from 4 universities at more than 100 different companies and public agencies in the pacific northwest. Garmin AT hires approximately 25 interns each year and has developed mentoring programs that help make sure the interns receive challenging work that also contributes to the success of their project teams. By emphasizing increased opportunities for real-world experience and hands-on work with engineering professionals, Garmin AT’s participation in MECOP helps students develop into future technology leaders.

FDIFC: Why does Garmin continue to grow the site in Salem?

Steve: As one of the few technology companies in Salem, a key to Garmin AT’s continued growth is our ability to attract and retain exceptional engineering talent. Garmin AT is competing for engineering talent with much larger and well-known companies throughout the West Coast.  Although many engineers seek employment in larger cities or companies, Garmin AT’s emphasis on creating a culture and work environment that aligns with people interested in living in our area has provided excellent results in hiring both entry-level and experienced engineers.  By successfully attracting top talent, Garmin AT has continued to grow and contribute to Garmin’s success in the aviation industry.