Visitors Center welcomes Chicago-area high school students as potential future company employees


Dolton Thornridge High School sophomore Samuel Stokes sits at the controls of a simulator Thursday at the Caterpillar Visitors Center, where two busloads of Chicago area high school students toured the facility.

They come for the tractor displays, but some might return for the job. That was the thinking behind the program Thursday at Caterpillar Visitor Center in Downtown Peoria where 57 Chicago-area high school students toured the facility.

Organized by the Family Centered Educational Agency in South Holland, a group that seeks to help young people succeed in school, students from Thornton Township, Thornridge and Thornwood high school made the trip to Peoria.

Before taking a tour of the facility, students first heard about job opportunities at Caterpillar Inc. and what they might need to do to get a job with the company.

Molly Steffen, a Caterpillar employee who addressed the students, pointed out that 1.2 million computing jobs across the country will be available through 2020.

Students heard about jobs available in a wide variety of fields, including manufacturing. In addition to getting good grades, students should work on their ability to communicate, she said. “We love to see people excited about their career field,” said Steffen.

Students such as Samuel Stokes, a sophomore at Thornridge High School in Dolton, appreciated getting the information that Steffen and other provided. “I have an interest in engineering, so the fact that Caterpillar helps with college expenses caught my attention. I also liked hearing about the travel involved. I like to travel,” said Stokes.

Ashley Walker, a South Holland Thornwood High School sophomore, said the tractors on display at the center held her interest.

Levetta Parker, the FCEA outreach specialist, said the trip to Caterpillar center was designed to alert students to the importance of pursuing science and mathematics classes.

Center manager Kathryn Spitznagle said some 60 school groups have visited the Caterpillar facility since opening in October 2012. “We’ve got 11 more scheduled for April and May,” she said.

“They’re coming from everywhere. Teachers are telling teachers,” said Spitznagle, referring to field trip opportunities at the center. Caterpillar spends out a monthly newsletter to 650 schools throughout the state, she said.

“Schools like the fact that a field trip here is very affordable,” she said, noting that admission is free for children younger than 12 and $3 for high school students.