As the manufacturer and one of the region’s leading employers enters a hiring race, Caterpillar’s Large Engine Centre opened its doors to the media on Tuesday to get a rare inside look at operations.
General Manager Joe Markun says many people who drive past the Lafayette plant, located on the city’s busy South Street, may wonder what goes on inside.
He says the engines assembled there are not used in the Caterpillar front-end loaders and excavators seen on construction sites. Instead, they are much larger and used to power submarines, locomotives and other massive machines.
“Most of our products you won’t see on construction sites,” he says. “You will see them in large quarry vehicles… You will also see them in marine applications such as tugboats.”
Markun adds that business is booming after the pandemic, with the company adding 60 jobs to its assembly and machining operations.
“We see a lot of demand for our business, so we need to increase the flexibility of our workforce,” says Markun. “We need people to produce the products we need for our customers… Lafayette grew up around us. It was the cornfields when they first came here. So we’re a big part of the community. one of the biggest employers in the community.”
Human Resources Manager Bailey Medley says some positions pay as much as $38 an hour. However, she knows the hiring process will be a challenge due to labour shortages across the country.
“That’s why we offer referral bonuses,” Medley says. “We also have sign-up bonuses for new hires ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, so we think this is a good method and we are trying to spread the word through our employees and their participation in the community.”
The plant opened in 1982 and is celebrating its 40th anniversary in Lafayette this year. Marcoun says the company continues to grow because of its people and its products.
“For some of the engines we produce here, we are the only supplier,” he says. “We supply products all over the world.”
The Lafayette Caterpillar site is hosting a job fair from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Thursday at the reception centre. Participants are encouraged to bring their CVs.