Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



June/July 2013

Diversity/Careers June/July 2013

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Diversity In Action

Alcoa’s corporate culture relies on input and inclusion

This giant in the aluminum industry also invests big energy into its partnerships for recruitment, retention, inclusion and community outreach

'We are a fully integrated advanced manufacturing company,” says Lance LaVergne, director of talent acquisition at Alcoa, Inc. Alcoa is one of the largest producers of aluminum in the world. But the business is far from one-dimensional.

“We have a variety of opportunities for mechanical, electrical, industrial, chemical, computer, manufacturing and metallurgical engineers to work in all segments of our business, starting with mining operations, which is the front end of the aluminum process,” LaVergne says.

“The midstream part of our business is where we make additional aluminum products, such as rolled sheets for beverage can production. In the more advanced manufacturing stages, we make products for the aerospace, automotive and consumer electronics industries, as well as our building and construction businesses.”

In the 125 years Alcoa has been in business, its operations have evolved to become more complex and sophisticated, LaVergne points out. “The innovation has never stopped. We need people who can look at new and different ways of using, producing, forging and extruding aluminum and developing it into new products,” he says. “So people who have experience in product design, for example, are important to us.”

Overall, 17 percent of Alcoa’s professional employees are minorities and 25 percent are women, according to LaVergne. Among senior managers, minorities and women are 16 percent and 19 percent.

Partnerships with colleges and professional societies
Alcoa typically hires about 300 experienced engineers, 200 entry-level engineers, and 250 summer interns each year. Its campus partnership program has been in place for two decades and includes nineteen target schools across the country. “These schools are the source of sixty percent of our campus-related hiring,” LaVergne says. “The remainder of our college graduate hires come from schools that are local to our work sites.”

Alcoa engages with on-campus engineering societies and fraternal organizations. Summer internships are available at all the Alcoa locations and last from ten to twelve weeks. While the program is open to exceptional freshmen and sophomores, the vast majority of interns are rising juniors and seniors.

“The goal is to provide a real work experience for our interns, who we hope will be eligible for permanent hire. However, we also think it’s important to build a pipeline of students who can come back to us for multiple summers and get a variety of experience with us before joining us full time,” LaVergne says.

Alcoa also reaches students through the company’s partnerships with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Out in Science, Technology and Mathematics (oSTEM), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). “Last year, we were a key sponsor at the NSBE conference. It was a great opportunity to bring students to our Pittsburgh facility. We also developed an event around tweeting that we replicated at the 2013 NSBE conference in Indianapolis,” says LaVergne. “We plan to attend the 2013 conferences for SWE in Baltimore and SHPE in Indianapolis.” Alcoa leverages its relationships with these organizations to recruit experienced professionals as well, he says.

Working together as an organization
Under the direction of chief diversity officer Gena Lovett, Alcoa’s diversity programs include in-house diversity training classes for supervisors and managers, as well as online courses. “Those programs are continually being upgraded,” says LaVergne. “We want to make sure that our employees get the training they need to operate effectively in a multicultural environment.”

Alcoa supports three corporate affinity groups: a women’s group, an African heritage group, and an LGBT group, according to LaVergne. “All three of our affinity groups have recruiting as an important part of their strategy, and we work closely with them to help us identify both college graduates and experienced hires,” he says. “They participate in all our events with NSBE, oSTEM, SHPE, and SWE, and as a result, have become an integral component and resource for us in terms of identifying candidates from diverse backgrounds.”

Corporate outreach for STEM ed
The Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the country, LaVergne notes. “Through the foundation, we support a host of initiatives, particularly around STEM education and workforce development. This provides many opportunities for our employees to engage with their local communities.”

Alcoa is a major sponsor of the nonprofit Junior Achievement organization, where students work with digital tools and information that help them understand STEM career options at different stages of their education and professional development. The company is also a sponsor of the FIRST Tech Challenge, a real-world robotics competition that shows the exciting side of engineering.

“In addition, Alcoa sets aside money for local impact grants in each of our locations,” says LaVergne. “Our employees can identify specific organizations in their local communities that they’d like to work with and the foundation often provides funding.”


Headquarters: Pittsburgh, PA
Employees: 61,000
Revenues: $23.7 billion
Business: Primary and fabricated aluminum; bauxite mining, alumina refining

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