The first in our new series showcasing the membership of Dividends Nebraska, and how these businesses, organizations and individuals are growing their local economies, workforce and families by supporting the development of young kids in their communities. We begin with our newest Dividends member, Aulick Industries of Scottsbluff.
Three Generations of Community Commitment
Not long after Harry Aulick founded Aulick Industries in Scottsbluff in 1952, he recognized that Nebraska’s agricultural producers needed durable, high-quality transportation machinery to keep their farms strong and thriving. He used that realization to grow a business that is now an industry leader in agricultural transportation products and crop transportation. Currently, the Aulick Family Entities (Aulick Industries and Aulick Leasing) employ more than 500 people in operations across seven states. With new additions to Aulick Industries product line in 2016, the company is likely to double its employee base over the next decade.
For three generations, the Aulick family has remained committed to the idea that strong, vibrant businesses and strong, vibrant communities are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. It’s why Aulick Industries plays a leadership role in keeping the company’s Scottsbluff home moving forward, especially by cultivating opportunity for its young residents.
“Our projected growth means we absolutely need a robust, diverse talent pool in Scottsbluff,” says Jacob Aulick, who currently serves as the Company HR Director at the company his grandfather founded. “We can’t do that unless our young people are entering the workforce with the skills and knowledge base we need them to have.”
Unfortunately, Aulick notes, too many young people in the community don’t have the same kinds of learning opportunities he and his brothers had growing up. That’s why Aulick Industries is focused on ensuring more kids in Scottsbluff start out with the experiences that will help steer them toward a productive, self-sufficient adulthood.
Career-Ready in Scottsbluff
Aulick Industries takes an active approach to making sure young people in Scottsbluff get the experiences they’ll need to be workforce-ready. In 2016, the company partnered with Scottsbluff Public Schools to offer multi-year career planning programs designed to introduce middle school students to various employment options in the community. Jacob Aulick, CFO Jeanne McKerrigan and other company employees lead students in discussions about career paths at the company, invite them to tour their Scottsbluff facility and educate them about various aspects of agricultural manufacturing and other trades.
As students enter high school, they may elect to pursue vocational preparation in a more formalized “career academy” program model. Participating students can earn high school and, in some cases, college credit by interning at Aulick Industries. Not all interns find permanent places at the company, but even so the Aulicks feel the program delivers enormous returns for the investment of time, effort and resources.
“I’m thrilled these students are acquiring marketable skills they might not otherwise have gained through a traditional high school or post-secondary program,” says Jacob Aulick. “We’re helping more young people find pathways to lucrative careers that don’t necessarily require a four-year college degree.”
While vocational knowledge is important to students’ career paths, Aulick notes that their company’s partnership with Scottsbluff Public Schools encourages a broader array of skills critical to workforce success. “We encourage kids to take pride in putting in a solid day’s work, in bringing a job to completion, in becoming a reliable, responsible individual—advantages they’re going to need to compete in the job market. Our company believes a high-quality work ethic leads to better quality of life.”
Early Care Opportunities for Working Families
If the Aulick boys have any regrets about their own childhood, they center on not having as much time as they would have liked with their own fathers. “Our dads had to focus a lot of their time and energy on growing the family business,” Aulick notes. “We want to make sure that Aulick employees who have young children are able to be involved with them as much as possible.”
Aulick’s concern reflects larger issues related to parental engagement and children’s skill development, especially in their earliest years. Research indicates that highly responsive, attentive parents are essential in cultivating children’s core cognitive, emotional and social development well before they arrive at kindergarten. The stronger a child’s language, reasoning, and self-regulation capabilities are early in life, the better prepared they will be by the time they enter the K-12 system and eventually begin learning other career-specific skills.
Aulick Industries is currently exploring options to create a company-based child care facility for its employees. The service would provide a “one-stop shop” for employees, who would be able to bring their children to the company’s child care center, head off to their jobs, and still be close enough to visit their little ones during the day.
The company is also considering ways to help families manage the cost of reliable child care at an on-site facility. “Many of our employees are paying more than $6,000 a year in child care costs,” Jacob points out. “Even workers with well-paying factory jobs can find a good chunk of their income eaten up by those and other necessities like health care. We’d like to be able help families economize by helping to underwrite affordable, on-site child care. It not only helps the parents, but it can also be an effective way for us to recruit and retain talent in our employee base.”
Presently, Aulick Industries is investigating possible community partnerships that would help a company-based child care service succeed, and identify a location for the center on its Scottsbluff campus. “It’s a challenge,” says Jacob Aulick, “mostly because space is already at a premium at our facility. But we’ll get it done. Once we set our minds on something worthwhile, we don’t quit.”
It’s that kind of industrious, determined and community-focused attitude that’s likely to keep Aulick Industries and Scottsbluff growing.