Thu Apr 11, 2019
Author: RV News Staff
Thor Industries’ LEAP (Learn, Engage, Achieve, Perform) program has grown rapidly during its first 18 months. The program, which gives fifth and eighth grade students in Elkhart County, Ind., an introduction to the RV industry, now involves approximately 5,000 students. The program is now in the midst of its spring schedule, with several school visits set for the coming weeks.
“The schools love it and we love it,” says Rick Schutt, Thor’s director of community engagement and head of LEAP.
Thor brings in travel trailers and motorhomes to give kids an idea of what the company manufactures. Five of Elkhart County’s seven school districts are participating at the fifth-grade level. That equates to 23 schools and about 2,000 students. Schutt says he hopes to add the other two school districts for the next school year. At the eighth grade-level, all seven public school districts are participating. That’s 10 middle schools and more than 3,000 eighth graders.
“We let students know we are the RV capital of the world and we are proud of it,” Schutt says. “It’s not just talking for 45 minutes. We bring RVs for them to tour.”
Other interactive activities include trivia challenges, problem solving, and what many students consider the highlight: a Lego build of an RV. Thor collaborated on the overall program with ETHOS, a local science innovation center.
Eighth graders are given a more elaborate RV Lego project to build. Students are divided into stations resembling an assembly line with quality inspectors, engineers and supervisors. The first RV is built with flaws and students are asked to identify the flaws. Schutt says the process helps give students a taste of the different types of jobs in a manufacturing plant.
Thor sends a team of four to six people on each visit. Working with Thor’s many subsidiaries, visits are scheduled with proximity in mind. For example, Jayco, located in Middlebury, Ind., partners with schools in that region. The program is already planting the seeds of a potential career in the RV industry with many students, Schutt says. He anticipates LEAP will continue to expand.
“What we will do at the end of May is sit down and evaluate the program,” Schutt says. “We are researching other counties in our area that we could possibly reach such as LaGrange County, which is a neighboring county.”
Schutt says the program is already creating a greater awareness regarding potential RV careers. He says when eighth graders advance to high school, the industry is already in the back of their minds. Many students have family members involved in the industry.
“You can see that many of them know something about the RV industry, but they don’t know all that it means for the area,” Schutt says. “We are trying to let them know who Thor is and what types of products it makes. It’s a great way for us to market to the students.”
Schutt says participating schools are excited about the program and glad to offer students something outside the usual classroom experience. Teachers appreciate that the program is interactive and not a 45-minute speech.
“We put a lot of hard work into this and we know it’s making a difference,” Schutt says.