- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Eisenhower High School students found out during spring break that there’s a lot more to Caterpillar Inc. than meets the eye.

“You drive past it, and you think it’s just a factory,” said Salat Al-Nurridin, a junior in the Operation Calculus program. Students in the program spent some of their spring break in an “externship” at Caterpillar, learning about the variety of careers available and what it takes to pursue them. “The guys in work boots building machinery have college degrees and a high degree of skills to do their jobs.”

Operation Calculus is a program at Eisenhower designed to provide a head start and support to students who are at risk of failing or dropping higher math classes. Students begin in the summer prior to the start of school and receive extra tutoring during the school year.

Sticking with those math classes will give them a leg up in the working world, said Bart Bradford, product support and service engineer for Caterpillar, who was their lunchtime speaker Thursday.

“Math develops critical thinking skills,” Bradford said. “When we begin (school), it’s 2 plus 2, but calculus shows you there are lots of ways to get to the same answer. People who make the most money are the ones who have critical thinking skills and develop new ideas. They get paid to think instead of paid to do.”

Bradford said he first wanted to be a mechanic, but when he enrolled at Tuskegee University, he discovered mechanical engineering. His job allows him to travel to Caterpillar’s facilities in Brazil, China and the United States, and he meets with customers in Turkey and Argentina. He urged the students to learn a second language, too. He knows a little Portuguese and Spanish and is taking classes in Mandarin.

The students spent the three days learning from Caterpillar employees, and they also had a tour of the plant. This was the first time for this particular program, said Kendall Briscoe, facility communications supervisor.

Under certain conditions, the company will assist with education costs and training, which is one thing that intrigued senior Braxton Woodland.

“A lot of people here have a four-year degree,” he said. “When you’re thinking about college, where’s your starting place going to be? There was a lot of stuff I didn’t know.”


Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/1CP8FVF


Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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