Ensuring a Talented Pipeline: 2013 ThinkBIG Global Conference

Every two years, a team of specialized dealer representatives, technical colleges and Caterpillar representatives meet for an international ThinkBIG conference - a forum for sharing ideas, developing new programs and sharing best practices for the ThinkBIG program. This year, more than 70 representatives from 21 colleges and universities and 10 different countries gathered at Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo., for the biennial conference.

ThinkBIG is a two year program that teaches students how to service Cat® equipment by using cutting-edge diagnostic and maintenance systems, advanced technologies and high-tech tools. ThinkBIG combines classroom work with hands-on learning in the field and in state-of-the-art labs, allowing students to see technologies in real-world applications - solving problems and helping Caterpillar customers get their jobs done. Upon completion of the program, graduates receive an associate's degree in applied science.

Over the last 15 years, there have been more than 3,300 ThinkBIG graduates around the world. This also includes 60 graduates of ThinkBIGGER, a sister program that offers the opportunity for students to extend their education and training with an additional two year program focused on management opportunities. These graduates receive a bachelor's degree in science and technology.

The program continues to launch careers. For instance, take Griffin Reome - a graduate of the ThinkBIG and ThinkBIGGER programs. Reome, currently a Global Mining Product Service Engineer, attended the conference as the keynote speaker. Reome said, "ThinkBIG and ThinkBIGGER were really life changing experiences. These programs gave me on-the-job training at Cat dealerships (Holt, Whayne), working directly with Cat machines, and I experienced first-hand how it feels to be a valuable part of the Cat dealer family."

Participants walked away with not only great successes and shared experiences, but knowledge on Tier 4, Accugrade, tool room management, internship and classroom training acumen, electric power generation and the electric off-highway truck. Most importantly, attendees also left feeling energized to continue their journey of developing and supporting the ThinkBIG program.

"Servicing our customers is one of Mining's top priorities. And, programs like ThinkBIG generate talented professionals who leave the program already prepared to work on and service our equipment," said Caterpillar President of Mining Sales & Support, Chris Curfman. "Our dealer network continues to be one of our competitive advantages, and creating the pipeline for talent is essential. In Mining, we have the highest concentration of ThinkBIG and ThinkBIGGER alumni working with our customers and dealers each day."

Caterpillar Program Director and Creator, Steve Hitch, has become an icon in the field of technical education and job readiness across the industry. Hitch stated, "Cat started this program in 1998 with just seven students. It's simply spectacular to see that we have now developed more than 3,300 young technicians to work at our dealers. We grew our program into ThinkBIGGER in 2001 with more than 60 graduates today. It's easy to wake up every day ready to forge ahead for Caterpillar when I know we're making a difference with our students, our dealers and ultimately, our customers."

Linn State has had a special relationship with Caterpillar for many years. Director of Industry Relations for Linn State, Steve Doede, commented, "Our relationship has grown to a point that we have become a trusted partner with Caterpillar, and for that reason, we were selected to host this conference. Linn State's ThinkBIG program is one of eleven in the nation. The college was the fourth college to be selected by Caterpillar to have a ThinkBIG program, and we are proud to host a conference that will allow continued growth of this exceptional opportunity for future technicians."

Hitch was proud of another successful conference, saying, "This is our sixth global conference, and I say the same thing each time - it's about skilled labor. It's what it's all about. We can't get comfortable. We won't get comfortable. If we do that, that's when the wheels fall off. That is the epitome of the ThinkBIG concept."

To learn more about ThinkBIG visit www.cat.com/ThinkBIG