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Diversity in Action

Textron Systems needs skilled techies

The defense and aerospace firm seeks sophisticated skills, but is also filling entry-level jobs. There's a major effort to attract diversity

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Bob Cuddyer.

Bob Cuddyer.

Textron Systems designs advanced technology for global defense and aerospace industries: precision strike weapons, intelligent ground munitions, ground and airborne surveillance, specialty marine craft, armored vehicles and aircraft components, including engines for general aviation. It's currently working on major contracts in the area of unattended ground sensors for the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.

The company is also developing an armored security vehicle better able to withstand improvised explosive devices. "They save lives and the Army wants them and we're working to get them out there just as fast as we can," says Bob Cuddyer, Textron Systems' human resources business partner.

With so much important work to do, Textron Systems is eager to bring on more engineers with special skills. "Some projects require very specific kinds of engineering, such as infrared or acoustic seismic sensor," Cuddyer explains. RF, radar, signal processing and embedded software, and other areas are also in demand.

Candidates can come out of the commercial world, but most of the company's positions require U.S. citizenship and the ability to get a security clearance. "It does tend to narrow the field," Cuddyer says.

Diverse candidates with the needed skills are very welcome. Textron Systems seeks them at job fairs put on by SHPE, SWE, NSBE and the like, and hopes to develop closer relationships with other diversity-oriented organizations. The company recently hosted the annual awards dinner of a local chapter of SWE and plans to do the same for NSBE.

"We discovered that the more traditional kinds of recruiting for diversity won't be enough. We have to establish relationships and networks, and give candidates a good understanding of our organization and values."

Textron Systems is also turning to the military, where it finds "a great pool of diverse candidates in junior officers completing their service."

Despite the sophisticated skills it needs, the company is also filling entry-level positions. "We've recognized the need to bring in entry-level techies and offer them a mentoring process that helps them grow their skills," says Cuddyer.

Building an inclusive workforce is one of the key topics covered in a monthly management review. "It gets top visibility," says Cuddyer. "At this point we have good traction."

Recruiting efforts are coupled with in-house diversity training. Outside consultants helped put together a professional program that includes top management.

The company also created diversity teams at each site, with the objective of improving the workplace for everyone. "The teams keep their ears open to pick up issues so we can address them as they arise," Cuddyer explains.

The teams, and any other staffers, are encouraged to refer likely candidates for employment. Cuddyer says, "We're finding employee referrals a great source of good applicants, especially through the contacts and networking of the diversity teams."

A women's network also addresses work/life balance and similar issues. Textron Systems offers flexible scheduling, a daycare center at its Wilmington site and domestic partner benefits.

All company sites, in Santa Clarita, CA; New Orleans, LA; Williamsport, PA and Wilmington, MA, as well as Providence, RI HQ, support large and varied lists of community activities. Wilmington, for example, sponsors a baseball field and a high school/college robotics team. Employees work with local schools in a variety of ways, including mentoring and fundraising.

D/C


Textron
www.textronsystems.com

Headquarters: Providence, RI
Employees: 44,000
Revenues: Textron, Inc, $10.2 billion in 2004
Business: Advanced technology solutions for global defense and aerospace. Part of Textron Inc, a multi-industry company
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