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Learning on the Job

Each year, Novelis recruits talented engineering graduates from around the world to participate in its Engineering Development Program (EDP), a two-year experience that provides participants with a clear career path for future growth and development at the company.

Bridging Classroom to Career

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While the program has been successful, Novelis’ talent team has had to adjust its approach to attract the right type of talent to ensure participants can grow and thrive in a manufacturing environment, typically located in smaller, more rural areas.


of employers unable to take on new work

The Challenge

Engineering experience and talent is a fundamental need at Novelis, where engineers are at the forefront of developing and delivering new products to its customers.

With more than half of all Novelis engineers expected to retire within the next decade, coupled with a number of recent corporate expansions, investing in Novelis’ engineering bench strength is imperative to maintaining and growing its leadership position in the aluminum industry. Today, 40% of businesses are unable to take on more work because they can’t fill current job openings.

The Solution

Novelis established its Engineering Development Program (EDP) to create employee career pathways that align to its business needs by coupling robust classroom curriculum with on-the-job experience. The program also partners with local educational institutions to identify and recruit qualified candidates.

Consisting of technical, professional, and leadership training conducted at their 24 manufacturing facilities around the world, EDP includes classroom coursework, coaching, on-the-job projects, and other development opportunities. In just six years, the program has turned out 350 early-career engineer graduates.

The Program

The EDP curriculum structure consists of four, week-long classroom sessions held at Novelis’ locations around the globe. These classroom meetings give rising talent exposure to Novelis’ top engineers, as well as other participants in the program, fostering a community of collaboration and camaraderie while building a global mindset and network early in their career.

Novelis finds the brightest minds for this unique opportunity by relying on their powerful network of local education institution partners. They are in search of candidates who possess a degree in engineering (electrical, mechanical, materials science/metallurgy, industrial), have solid business acumen, take an analytical approach to problem-solving, and demonstrate leadership potential.

As a result of this program, Novelis has made great strides in filling its engineering pipeline.

A Clear Career Path

EDP offers rising engineers with an opportunity to participate in a unique curriculum of classroom and field experiences aimed to accelerate learning while building a strong sense of community. The program accelerates the development of an early-career engineer as it provides him or her with knowledge of the end-to-end manufacturing process and an understanding of how his or her role aligns to it.

Upon completion of the program, Novelis works closely with each participant to provide a clear career path forward. They ensure that this path aligns with the participant’s interests and Novelis’ business needs across automation engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, process engineering, and environmental health and safety.

In just the past few years, this strategy has proven to be successful. Novelis has been able to hire and retain top talent and has seen many of them advance to various leadership positions throughout the company.

Important Lessons Learned

When Novelis first launched the program in 2013, they initially chose to recruit from tier-one universities, regardless of whether or not they were located near a Novelis facility. As the program developed, Novelis found that although they were attracting top talent from around the country, that talent lacked a familiarity with many of Novelis’ locations and with manufacturing, more generally.

This resulted in shorter-than-anticipated tenures and higher than expected attrition rates. The Novelis talent team had to reassess how to attract the right type of talent that would grow and thrive in a manufacturing environment, typically located in smaller, more rural areas.

As such, Novelis strategically and thoughtfully changed their approach to recruiting.

  • Rather than targeting graduates exclusively from tier-one colleges and universities, they broadened their outreach to recruit top talent from local universities in areas close to Novelis facilities.
  • They also revamped the timing of the program. Rather than placing graduates in the program directly out of school, candidates must now work for at least six months at a Novelis plant as an intern, co-op, or direct hire before being eligible to apply to EDP.

After proving they’re a good cultural fit and that they possess a genuine interest in working in manufacturing, they are then enrolled in the program. This new approach allows all interested participants a chance to apply their skills and talents in a true manufacturing environment and get a real sense of the people and company culture, prior to enrollment.

The Partnerships that Make it Possible

Novelis works closely with numerous colleges and universities to create long-term partnerships that establish a pipeline of talent for Novelis. Through high-visibility activities on campus and consistent engagement with their career services departments, Novelis is able to match students’ interests with business needs.

Current partnerships include:

  • Berea, Kentucky  ·  University of Kentucky
  • Terre Haute, Indiana  ·   Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Greensboro, Georgia  ·   University of Georgia
  • Oswego, New York  ·  Clarkson, Syracuse University, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and SUNY Oswego
  • Fairmont, West Virginia  ·  West Virginia University
  • Warren, Ohio  ·  Youngstown State and Cleveland State University

Is this model repeatable?

Across the country, companies from all industries are reinvesting in on-the-job training and developing reliable pipelines of skilled talent from education partners. Like Novelis experienced, it is important to analyze what type of earn and learn training model will be right for your company and to fully understand your hiring needs before recruiting for the program.

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