WEST LAFAYETTE – The business of manufacturing, logistics, and transportation, like a lot of businesses, is undergoing a data-driven digital transformation, and Wabash, an innovation leader for engineered solutions in those fields, intends to stay ahead of the curve.
Wabash, formerly Wabash National, has a homecourt advantage in working to achieve its goal. Just across the Wabash River from the company, which is based in Lafayette, Indiana, lies Purdue University, routinely ranked as one of the most innovative universities in the U.S.
In December 2021, Wabash and Purdue announced a five-year research and development partnership that could apply cutting-edge knowledge in areas ranging from advanced engineering and quantum computing to materials science and electric vehicles to challenges facing the company and its customers, among them the exploding growth of e-commerce and home delivery and a growing emphasis on sustainability and automation.
Now, Wabash is working with Purdue Online in an educational partnership to train employees to better lead and implement digital transformation measures to match the accelerating pace of change in the industry. To start, Wabash is putting selected employees through Purdue’s online Data Science in Finance and Data Storytelling courses and five certificate programs – in Data Science, Applied Data Analytics, Business Analytics, Information Management, and Cybersecurity. The company pays for tuition, fees and books.
“At Wabash, our purpose is to change how the world reaches you, said Dave Teeter, senior director, talent and organizational effectiveness. “We understand as a forward-thinking organization that this can be powerfully enabled in significant part by digital transformation. It is critical that we enhance our collective organizational understanding of the concepts within this space and utilize them to move our business forward and create additional value for our customers.”
“In addition to Purdue University being a critical and valued partner to Wabash across multiple areas, they are also a recognized leader in delivering this type of learning and education,” Teeter said. “They have worked with us collaboratively to meet our learning needs and deliver in a way that benefits our dynamic workforce.”
Nile Gilmanov, an IT security engineer who’s worked at Wabash for nine years, is taking Purdue’s Cybersecurity Certificate series with modules covering Secure Foundations and Secure Applications. He said the program is enhancing his skills – and enhancing the security of the company’s digital assets in the process.
“It’s filling in some gaps for me, and it’s also refreshing things I knew but may have forgotten,” Gilmanov said. “It helps me make better decisions and helps me apply more best practices in making decisions.”
Amanda Garman, manager of talent, learning, and development, said Wabash sees the educational partnership with Purdue only expanding in the future.
“This first cohort of students is a pilot,” Garman said. “We have a small subset of employees utilizing the program now, with the expectation that we grow participation exponentially over the coming years.”
The educational partnership aligns with the research partnership with Purdue, Garman said, and it fits with Wabash’s culture, which emphasizes employees having a growth mindset, being curious and always learning.
“We really see it as an investment in our employees,” Garman said. Senior company leaders strongly back the program. Teeter and Chief Financial Officer Mike Pettit are even part of the initial student cohort. Both are enrolled in Purdue’s Data Storytelling course.
“Whether it is our highly rated online master’s degrees in engineering or individual courses and certificate programs, Purdue is building a strong portfolio of offerings attractive for working professionals and taught by faculty who are recognized leaders in their fields,” said Dimitrios Peroulis, Purdue’s Michael and Katherine Birck Head and Reilly Professor, Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and special advisor to the dean of engineering on online learning.
That the Purdue courses are 100% online gives busy people like Pettit, Teeter and other employees the flexibility to fit their learning into their schedules and also makes the learning opportunity available to Wabash employees in other parts of the country. Wabash has employees from Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin enrolled in the first cohort.
Purdue Online did more than just provide the courses, Garman said. Purdue Online staff members were “thought partners” in putting the program together and have been readily available to help get it going.
“One of the goals of Purdue Online is to work with corporate partners to meet their employees’ training and reskilling needs, which can range from connecting them to and packaging courses and programs Purdue already offers to work with them to design tailored programs,” said Gary Bertoline, senior vice president for Purdue Online and Learning Innovation. “The educational partnership with Wabash fits perfectly with that goal.”
Wabash already had a good feel for what an educational partnership with Purdue could provide. The company regularly hires interns and full-time employees from Purdue.
“Really, it’s a no-brainer,” Garman said. “When you have a top university just across the river you have to use it.”
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