DEKALB COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA 21) – In Garrett, a locally-owned company is taking steps to change the way young people look at manufacturing as a career. It’s also helping those young people change a child’s life. “We have to. For the future success of Dekko, we have to,” says Dekko Corporation’s Cindy Nesbitt.
Like many companies in northeast Indiana, Garrett-based Dekko corporation is competing for skilled labor. It’s so difficult, especially engineering but production is especially difficult right now,” Nesbitt says. And when leaders at Dekko realized that about 40% of their employees were 50 or older, they knew they had to take matters into their own hands to attract new talent. “We’re working on improving our benefits, raising our pay, our culture has made a complete turnaround. So all of those things we can do to change how we’re perceived, we’re working on that,” she says.
The company offers paid internships not only to college but to high school students to expose them to the types of careers manufacturing can offer. This summer, the batch of students worked on a project that hit close to home. “We presented it to them and they just jumped on,” Dekko employee Eric Brown says. Brown adopted Meilee, who was born with a left hand that wasn’t fully formed. Since Dekko uses a 3D printer to make prototypes of electrical components, he asked whether the summer interns would print his daughter a hand. She chose red because it’s the first color in a rainbow. She’s had the hand for a week. “She went around the house picking up all kinds of things to see what she could pick up and grab with it,” Brown says.
A prosthetic hand can cost as much as $20,000. The 3D printed one was $300. And Brown is already seeing how Meilee’s life can change. “Our goal is to get her on a bicycle. Because as you can imagine, without a hand, riding a bicycle is really difficult. So that’s what I presented to the interns. I want to get her on a bicycle this year. She’s 10 years old and it’s time for her to learn and now she’s got something she can grip with and balance. So we’re going to do that for the rest of the summer, see if we can’t get it figured out, right, Mei? Right,” they say.
The interns say being able to help her was the icing on the cake for the internship. Changing someone’s life, it’s just a great feeling overall. So as far as a resume or portfolio goes, it’s a bonus, but the satisfaction of actually making an impact is more important for me,” Salvador Espinoza says.