ARC Automotive has found a new reason to bleed orange thanks to students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
The inflator manufacturing company operates in four countries on three continents, but its headquarters and R&D center are located just minutes from UT. Through a partnership quarterbacked by Senior Lecturer Chris Wetteland, ARC and MSE students are helping each other find opportunities for growth.
The initial relationship started with Wetteland, the associate director for industrial partnerships and undergraduate research at CMP, and Tom Graumann, now director of talent acquisition and leadership development for ARC. Three years ago, Graumann began meeting with MSE students to critique resumes and hold a Q&A session.
“I was really impressed with the students, materials, the labs that I saw, and the equipment they were using,” Graumann said.
When Dan Holloway came on as ARC’s global VP for human resources and safety last year, he joined Graumann and Wetteland at the annual event.
“It’s a learning experience for us to speak with students, too,” he said. “Employers say, ‘We need experience, experience.’ But you talk to these students and see the capability and intellect they have, and you’d think employers would realize, maybe experience at the work place is not that important. The projects they’re working on in college right now are amazing.”
Graumann agrees. “Thinking about some of the students we’ve met,” he said, “they not only have the intellect, they’ve got the personality to go with it, and the experience to go with that. They’re people we’d love to have on our team.” And, he added, “They’re in my backyard.”
[It’s] a feeder system for talented engineers for our R&D center…they have technology not every company has because of the cost. By working together, we’re able to use that equipment and it helps with our product development.”
Earlier this year, Graumann and Holloway introduced ARC’s VP of engineering Brian Pitstick to Wetteland. Tours of MSE’s facilities followed, along with meetings with students. This move resulted in collaboration between MSE and the product engineering group at ARC.
“ARC is providing real-life work for students there,” Graumann said, “and we receive the data.”
Holloway summarized the benefits for ARC: “One, to have a feeder system for talented engineers for our R&D center. Then to work hand-in-hand on joint projects. Three, they have technology not every company has because of the cost. By working together, we’re able to use that equipment and it helps with our product development.”
Holloway also connects this partnership with ARC’s goal to be one of the best places to work in Knoxville.
“Thirty years ago, manufacturing was the place to be. It’s not now,” he said. “We want to change that way of thinking…by hiring the best people, retaining them, and growing them in the company.”
Whether or not students ever work for ARC, Graumann and Holloway are a resource for them.
“We like to give back and support the local community and students,” Holloway said. “It’s good to connect with someone who’s been in the business a long time.”
“We love to help,” Graumann added. “We love the students, the materials science group, and Chris Wetteland.”
The passion Graumann and Holloway have for this partnership comes through loud and clear.
“My advice to other employers,” Holloway said, “is if you’re looking at other schools that are traditionally the ‘best engineering schools,’ don’t overlook Tennessee. There are some really talented students right here.”
Graumann put it more emphatically: “Every company in Knoxville–every company–could benefit from the materials science group at UT. But those companies have to have passion. They’ve got to see the value like we see the value.”
After all, he said, “These kids are game changers.”