FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 4, 2014
Contact: Darrel Berry, Marketing Communications Manager
Hanson Professional Services Inc.
Minority Participation Program successful; expansion pursued
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The inaugural Minority Participation Program in Springfield, Ill., has been a success in its first sixth months and may expand.
Mayor J. Michael Houston, Hanson Professional Services Inc.’s President and CEO Sergio “Satch” Pecori, P.E., and Hanson’s Chief Environmental Scientist Kevin Seals presented a six-month progress report of the inaugural program at a Sept. 2 news conference in the Springfield City Council’s chambers.
“The ultimate goal of the Minority Participation Program is to grow our own residents, who will return to Springfield and Sangamon County when they have completed their education and are ready to start their professional careers,” Houston said at the event. “I’m very pleased with the six-month status report for our program. It’s clear we have experienced success.”
The program was created through the Minority Participation Plan, which was announced in December 2013 in response to community desires for increased involvement of minority and disadvantaged businesses in the Springfield Rail Improvements Project. The plan was implemented by the city of Springfield, Sangamon County and Hanson, and the three entities have equally contributed to the $60,000 annual cost. The city, county and Hanson are working together to identify and mentor Springfield’s minority youth in the fields of engineering and science. The program’s goal is to foster interest in careers involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The program provides mentoring, education and training opportunities by promoting STEM-based activities and providing experience in the engineering industry through internships.
Hanson, as the program’s manager, works with minority-based organizations, businesses, colleges and universities, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and others in the Springfield community to connect students to existing programs. In March, the program provided opportunities for middle and high school students to go to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s (UIUC) Engineering Open House facilitated by the university’s Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) and for middle school girls to participate in the American Association of University Women’s Expanding Your Horizons workshop and learn about STEM careers. Lincoln Land Community College students visited Hanson in May to learn about the firm and its geospatial imaging van. Through UIUC’s National University Rail Center (NURail), two high school students attended a rail and intermodal summer camp from July 27 to Aug. 2 at Michigan Tech University.
“Diversity is crucial to Hanson’s success, in terms of our people, our projects and our services,” Pecori said. “We believe we must create opportunities for our children to stay in Springfield after college. We’re focused on developing creative, challenging jobs to encourage an educated, talented pool of young people to stay right here in our community, improving services, infrastructure and quality of life for Springfield and the surrounding area.”
Ald. Gail Simpson also participated in the conference and told attendees, “Diversity is a good thing, and it’s the right thing. This program allows an opportunity for individuals who are well qualified to participate in employment that they may not otherwise be able to get.”
As part of the program, Hanson is committed to hiring three minority interns each year through the program’s duration. This year, two graduating high school seniors and one college student had summer internships at Hanson’s Springfield headquarters through the program. One senior plans to pursue a computer science degree; the other, a degree in civil engineering. The college student is working toward a master’s degree in civil engineering. They joined 12 students in summer internships at Hanson’s offices across the country.
“All fifteen of our company-wide interns were top-notch,” Pecori said.
The city’s public works department and IDOT also each hired one summer intern from the program.
Seals said Hanson intends to expand the program. “We will soon be meeting with our engineering partners that are currently working on the Springfield Rail Improvements Project to encourage their involvement and participation in the program. We then eventually plan to expand the program from specifically engineering- and science-based to other local businesses to increase the diversity of our city’s workforce and to create a model so that other communities might follow,” he said.
The mayor said he “would envision this being a longer-term program.”
“I would encourage our local engineering firms to participate in the program in the future,” Houston said. “Cultivating our own diverse talent is paramount to successfully building our engineering sector in Springfield.”
A workshop for program partners will be held in October to review the program’s progress and identify students and potential opportunities for this school year.
The progress report (without appendices) can be downloaded here. For more information about the Minority Participation Program, visit growourown.net.
Hanson is a national, employee-owned consulting firm providing engineering, planning and allied services. The firm’s corporate headquarters is located at 1525 S. Sixth St., Springfield, IL 62703. The office may be reached by phone: (217) 788-2450 or fax: (217) 788-2503.