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Published: Wednesday, 6/13/2007

Companies court young workers

BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

MONROEVILLE, Pa. - It's noon on a sunny day at Westinghouse Electric headquarters in Monroeville, Pa., and several young engineers are stationed at their usual spot: the white-sand volleyball court where almost every day they spike, set, and sweat their way through the lunch hour.

It's a relatively lengthy workday interruption that many companies would not tolerate, much less condone. But Westinghouse not only built its employees one of the nicest - if not the nicest - volleyball courts in the area, but it also added lights so they can play in leagues at night after work.

The company is firmly committed to courting its new employees - many of them recent college graduates hired in the last few years.

And Westinghouse isn't alone. Several companies, which also include Bayer Corp. and U.S. Steel, are facing the challenge of luring and retaining hundreds of new college graduates and addressing the generation gap between them and their middle-age co-workers.

"We had economic hard times and for about seven or eight years we hadn't had a college graduate hired," said Eric Denison, director of insulation systems for Bayer, which has its North American headquarters in Robinson, Pa. "The goal is to hire new blood and we want to keep them happy."

At Bayer recently, 24-year-old Matt Yedwabnik stood up in front of about 100 co-workers in the company cafeteria, slightly nervous as he led the formal kickoff event for new networking group that he and other recent college graduates had formed.

His group hopes to help Bayer adjust to the new reality of a new generation. When some of them interviewed at other companies, for example, they were taken out on the town at night by other recent college graduates.

At Westinghouse, all of the company's new college graduates spend about a week together at a hotel. They hear seminars on financial planning and the company's philosophy, complete a community service project together, and go out to meals and Pirates games.

Westinghouse hired about 30 new graduates in 1998 and will hire more than 200 this year, about a third of whom will work in the Pittsburgh area. In addition to volleyball, Westinghouse also sponsors a golf league, softball teams, and even ballroom dancing classes.

The company also has arranged for its employees to be able to earn master's degrees in business and mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh without having to leave the Westinghouse campus.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

; there's now enough employees interested that the professors come to Monroeville to teach.

A master's degree in nuclear engineering also is available via distance learning from Penn State.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.



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