Last fall, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC launched a light manufacturing technical course for at-risk youth in Ciudad Acuña, home city of the company’s Mexican manufacturing campus. Nearly 200 students and 12 months later, the company says it prepares to commemorate the program’s first year while planning its continuation.
Created as a pilot, Bendix says the educational initiative provides a dozen courses on light manufacturing techniques to men and women ages 18-25 who are not employed or enrolled in school. The unique 180-hour technical course, in which 12 groups of up to 20 students are studying in monthlong sessions, takes place at the Bendix Acuña campus.
Students engage in classroom training four days per week and receive practical hands-on experience one day each week, preparing them for a job in industrial manufacturing.
Bendix partnered with the Instituto de Capacitación para el Trabajo del Estado de Coahuila (ICATEC), a local training institute with deep community connections that helped to plan the course and recruit students.
“With ICATEC, we designed the program to help the students become job-ready for the manufacturing workforce – including at Bendix – and assist in their personal development, while helping to support the community at large,” says Carlos Hungria, Bendix chief operating officer. He serves as project sponsor for the company with Maria Gutierrez, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability. “Our work springs directly from Bendix’s mission to bolster our home communities in every way possible–in this case by increasing the opportunities for a vulnerable population of young people who don’t have jobs and aren’t in school.”
Statistics through the first 10 of 12 courses point to the program’s success, Bendix says. Students completing the course total 164, more than 80 percent of those who started it. Bendix has hired nearly 60 percent of those students. And of those hired, 60 percent remain as Bendix employees.
“We see the program as a success because of the changes we’ve watched it bring about in the students, and because of how it complements our hiring and workforce recruitment efforts for our Acuña operation,” Gutierrez says. “We’re proud of the impact the program has had on the community and for our business. We’re looking at ways to expand and further incorporate it into our business.”
In addition to the technical training, Bendix and ICATEC built in a component on human development–including life planning and leadership skills.
“When we set up the course, we didn’t know how much of a necessity the human development component would be,” Gutierrez says. “But we see now the impact it has. It’s one of the biggest benefits. At the start of each course, the students are shy. At the end, these young men and women are transformed – they’re talkative and have new confidence. They can do anything. You see it in their faces. We ask every student in each graduating class to say some words. Again and again, we hear how appreciative they are for the opportunity. They feel we changed their lives.”
Bendix and ICATEC will continue the course. They are exploring modifications to it for year two. In the meantime, they are planning an event to recognize the students hired by Bendix, the company says.
In addition to continuing the technical initiative, Bendix is also planning a pilot skills program for adults in Acuña who are age 46 and over.
Funding for the youth pilot program was provided by Knorr-Bremse Global Care, which is contributing $150,000. Knorr-Bremse Global Care is a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 by the Knorr-Bremse Group, of which Bendix is a member. The organization was founded to give people in need – through no fault of their own – a chance to lead more independent lives.
An Ambulance for the Red Cross
In August, Bendix Acuña supported the community it calls home in another way as well. The local Acuña chapter of the Mexican Red Cross recently opened a new main building in the city and was requesting contributions to help furnish and equip the facility. One need was a new ambulance to join the five the chapter already maintained, Bendix says.
Through its participation in a federal ambulance program, the Acuña chapter would be able to acquire a new, fully equipped 2017 ambulance for only 10 percent of the actual cost. They went in search of donations.
Enter the Bendix Foundation, which contributed $7,000, the entire 10 percent. The chapter purchased the ambulance, and it’s in use now.
“What we gave was nominal compared to what the chapter got. It’s a win-win all around,” Gutierrez says. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to help purchase a piece of equipment that will contribute to the health and well-being of the community for years to come.”