With the 2017-2018 school year underway, Rick Schutt, Director of Community Engagement for Thor Industries, has been visiting schools in the Elkhart, IN, area to talk to students about career opportunities in the RV Industry.
Representatives from Heartland RVs accompanied Schutt on visits to Mary Feeser Elementary School, Cleveland Elementary School, and Osolo Elementary School - all schools located near Heartland's headquarters in Elkhart. During these visits students toured products manufactured by Heartland and Thor Motor Coach and learned about all the different aspects of building and selling RVs.
"Trailers are really neat because when you build them, it's like building a house but on wheels. How you put all that together is really interesting," Cody Sears, Sales Representative for Heartland RV's North Trail, Wilderness, and Mallard team, told students at Cleveland Elementary School. "We have people at our factory who build walls, they build floors, they build roofs, they build axles for the wheels, and then they put them all together and - boom - we have a trailer."
"When you build a trailer, it starts from an idea. There's a product manager who says, 'this is what I'd like to build'. So then he works with a bunch of different people, it's a big team effort," Mike Depositar, Sales Representative for Heartland's Prowler and Prowler Lynx brands, told Osolo students. "So there's engineers, there's interior designers, there's marketing people, and they design the idea of the trailer. Then they work with a plant manager, and the plant manager says 'here's how we're going to build it'. Then they have people who work on the trailer. And we have a whole other team who does the quality, or the audit, of it. They make sure the product looks good. Once that's finished, then it comes to me."
Depositar, Sears, and Mike Zuern - all in sales at Heartland RVs - told students about their role in the company. "I have to communicate and teach [RV dealers] about the product you'll see today," said Zuern, who represents Heartland's Sundance, Gateway, and Terry Classic brands. "How it's built, how you sell it, why somebody would want to buy that unit. I also help that dealer manage inventory. My job is a lot of travel. I've been on an airplane 102 times this year. If you love to travel, if you like to see other parts of the country, this is the perfect job for you."
Schutt explained to students that Heartland was just one of 18 subsidiaries owned by Thor Industries. Within all of those companies, Thor employs approximately 18,000 workers. "So you can imagine with 18,000 employees there are a lot of different careers in Thor Industries," Schutt said.
"Not only can people have jobs on the assembly line building the RVs, but there's sales representatives who help sell them, there's engineers who design them, there's lawyers involved in our business, there's purchasing, there's marketing," said Schutt. "There's all kinds of careers right here in Elkhart."
"Some of the jobs you do have to go to college for, some you can start right out of high school," Schutt explained. "There's different skill levels and different educational levels you need. As we mentioned, some of the careers in engineering, being a lawyer within our company, those are some jobs you're going to need secondary education into college. But there are many jobs that you can start right out of high school and go to work right away, especially on the assembly line where you're actually building the RVs."
It has arguably never been a better time to be in the RV industry. Recently, record sales and shipments have been reported month after month, quarter after quarter. Elkhart's unemployment rate is around 3 percent, much lower than the national average. Everyone from nomadic retirees to wanderlusting millennials are flocking to the RV lifestyle, and Heartland RVs and all of Thor Industries' subsidiaries need workers to help meet that demand.
"What I've noticed: everywhere that I travel, people love to go camping," says Sears, who taught 9th and 10th grade prior to joining Heartland RVs. "Whether they're in Indiana, whether they're in Arizona where it's 120 degrees or whether they're in the mountains where it's like 20 degrees, people love to be outdoors."
"You can be proud of the fact that Elkhart County is the RV Capital of the World. A lot of your family members have a hand in building them," Zuern told Mary Feeser Elementary students. "You can take pride in knowing that, number one: they came from your community, and number two: maybe one of your family members had a part in making someone's dream come true."
While the fifth graders at these schools are too young to work for Heartland RVs right now, the company is currently hiring. Visit heartlandrvs.com/jobs to submit an application or view open positions. And follow the Jobs at Heartland RVs Facebook page for updates on open positions and other valuable information for job seekers.