JONESBORO, Ark. — Hytrol Conveyor Co. recently launched its Academic Partnership Initiative to cultivate, equip, and inspire the next generation of its workforce.


Hytrol’s Academic Partnership Initiative comprises various programs and collaborations with educational institutions ranging from K-12 schools to technical colleges and universities. Natalie Shew, manager of academic partnerships, was hired in August to launch this initiative.


“Natalie’s experience brings a wealth of knowledge working with educational programs,” said Hytrol Director of Strategic Planning Phillip Poston. “Her vision for engagement between Hytrol and educational partners is dynamic, and her enthusiasm is contagious. We are excited about what the future holds, for not only Hytrol, but the students of the Mid-South.”


Shew joins Hytrol from the University of Arkansas where she served as assistant director of proposals and planning for university advancement. Shew also has extensive experience in non-profit management, securing grants to create funding opportunities for education programs.


“Meaningful collaboration is the hallmark of Hytrol’s academic partnership initiative. From kindergarten through career, Hytrol strategically partners with a network of educational institutions and programs serving all ages across the city, state, and region,” said Shew.


The primary goals of the initiative are to increase the flow of talent to Hytrol, cultivate a thriving workforce, and boost economic development outcomes for the company and region.


Whether we’re participating in STEM camps for high schoolers, collaborating on advanced manufacturing training with our technical partners, or innovating new conveyor materials with university researchers, Hytrol is deeply engaged in education both internally and externally.


Shew is developing a skills-sharing program to meaningfully connect employees with their work and expertise while sharing Hytrol’s wealth of knowledge with the greater community. She is also evaluating a pilot apprenticeship program and co-op model.


When asked why the company started the Academic Partnerships Initiative, Hytrol President David Peacock said that it was not only important to invest in manufacturing in the Mid-South but also the people.


“Manufacturing is a top industry for the state of Arkansas and within the United States. Every dollar spent in manufacturing creates $1.82 for the U.S. economy,” explained Peacock. “In order to get the highest quality of employees, we must take action to help build and promote the skills sought in our industry.”


Manufacturing is one of Arkansas’s top industries, yet many don’t realize the diverse careers available in this sector. From welders and engineers to business analysts and marketing professionals, Hytrol has excellent career opportunities right here in our backyard.


For this reason, academic engagement is crucial to Hytrol’s success in drawing talent to its doors, developing its workforce, and scaling its business.


Academic partnerships with industry are not only beneficial for higher education, they are also crucial to building career readiness and STEAM skills in K-12 education. Therefore, Hytrol is building interactive programs for K-12 students, which center on STEM and business education, job readiness, and awareness of the many career pathways in manufacturing.


One way Hytrol contributes to education is by hosting elementary student tours with interactive experiences such as constructing a conveyor system, using augmented reality technologies, and learning about patenting a new product.


For middle and high school students, Hytrol participates in unique learning experiences in manufacturing and career prep such as job shadowing, pre-apprenticeships, and internships— working closely with area teachers to develop industry-aligned curriculum and hands-on activities for students.


Hytrol also collaborates with community programs and educational events, including Manufacturing Day with ASU Newport, Girls in STEM partnered with The Museum of Discovery, Teacher Externship hosted by Jonesboro Unlimited, and UA Little Rock’s STRIVE Program, among others


Moving up the pipeline of talent, Hytrol also invests heavily in partnerships with technical institutions and four-year universities.


“We prioritize consistent interaction with students, faculty, and administration to ensure everyone knows there are relevant educational and career opportunities at Hytrol in engineering, advanced manufacturing, business, HR, data analytics, and others,” said Shew.


Hytrol’s thriving internship program and research partnerships provide impactful opportunities for students to solve real-world issues in material handling and automation while figuring out their next step along the career continuum.


Research engagement between industry and academia with a strong intent to commercialize is a major catalyst for economic growth in Arkansas. Within Hytrol’s current research collaborations, we support faculty and student-led research in these ways: (1) funding the research, (2) donating equipment for testing and education (3) providing real industry challenges to solve, and (4) giving company expertise, mentorship, and resources.


The company has partnered with many educational institutions in the region and state, having established scholarships, employed students for internships and full-time careers, and created materials handling laboratories and spaces for students to test new ideas.


By working strategically with K-12 entities, colleges, and universities, Hytrol facilitates deeper industry preparation, a sustainably skilled workforce, and retention of talent in Arkansas.


As academic partnerships flourish, Hytrol will assuredly expand the economic ecosystem of Jonesboro, the region, and state.


“Through awareness, education, and innovation in manufacturing we can build a stronger Hytrol, a burgeoning Jonesboro, and a thriving Arkansas,” said Shew.


About Hytrol’s Academic Partnership Initiative:


Hytrol’s Academic Partnership Initiative was formed to create a pipeline of talent to Hytrol, cultivate a thriving workforce, and boost economic development outcomes for the company and region. If you have more questions about this program or wish to participate contact Natalie Shew at nshew@hytrol.com.


For more information on Hytrol, visit www.hytrol.com.


About Hytrol:


Hytrol designs and manufactures advanced conveyor systems for its customers. For more than 70 years, Hytrol has focused on creating innovative, customized conveyor solutions that help companies achieve their goals.