Heather Ackeret knows firsthand about the wide range of possibilities open to engineers at Kohler Co. After five years and three roles with the company, she has developed to lead a cross-functional team. “I’m an advocate that there could be a job and a career here for anyone,” she said.
After starting at UW-Milwaukee in architecture because it was related to a family business, she switched to industrial and manufacturing engineering a few months later. “I soon realized that I favored all my classes in the in Math/Science/Engineer
ing area,” she said, and she chose this specific area of engineering because she believed the degree would give her a range of career opportunities, opportunities she has been able to pursue at Kohler.
Kohler recruited her for a quality management role at its global faucets division, and eight months ago, she was promoted to a leadership role over a cross-functional product development team in the company’s engine division. The team includes engineers as well as marketing and sales staff. “I explain my job to family and friends by saying that I help new products come to life,” she said.
“My favorite part of the job is completing the major milestones, watching the product go from an idea to a reality,” she added. Currently her team is focused on bringing features usually reserved for commercial mowers to consumer lawn tractor engines, such as electronic fuel injection and more robust air filters.
Kohler currently has more than 40 openings for engineers at its facilities in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, said Christine Perkins, a talent segmentation specialist at the company.
They have opportunities for electrical, mechanical, diesel application, switchgear and ceramics engineers, Perkins said. The jobs run the gamut of engineering roles, including product design, product engineering and manufacturing engineering. Kohler also has openings for people with two-year degrees in engineering related fields such as CAD (computer-aided drafting) designers and engineering technicians, Perkins added.
Kohler recruits from universities in Wisconsin including the engineering programs at the University of Wisconsin campuses in Madison, Stout and Platteville, but they also look to universities across the country to meet their talent needs. For instance, for their ceramics engineers, there are only two programs – one at Alfred University in New York and another at the Missouri University of Science and Technology – that produce engineers with the skill set that Kohler requires.
Engineering students looking to get a head start with Kohler Co. should look into the company’s internship and co-op programs. At their peak this summer, they had 230 participants in those programs, and more than 30 percent were engineers, Perkins said. Co-op program participants take a semester off school to spend about eight months at Kohler, and are also more likely to end up being offered a position with the company.
Once with the company, Kohler employees talk about how they can try varied roles, and Ackeret is no different.
“I think that Kohler sees their employees as people and not positions. There is a diverse and vast amount of job offerings at Kohler allowing anyone to make their career path as unique as they are,” Ackeret said. The opportunity to work in different divisions has helped Ackeret develop a range of skills, including the leadership skills she needs to manage her team.
Some Kohler staff advance to engineering after starting in skilled trade roles, having had the training and education necessary to transition to these higher-skilled and higher-paying roles.
Kohler is an innovative place to work, and the company took home two Governor’s New Product awards this year for the cutting edge products that they brought to market, highlighting the skill, creativity and vision of their product development and engineering talent.
For more information about engineering openings, go to the Kohler Careers website to apply.