Every organization is looking for the right employee to boost culture and meet strategic needs. In the modern workplace, this individual must be tech-savvy, intellectually curious, and have a desire for professional growth. Other traits will vary based on the organization’s culture, as well as the role being filled.
Job seekers with exceptional science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills are a hot commodity across the nation, but they naturally flock to technology-dense areas, where organizations have long track records of supporting and challenging STEM thinkers.
This is a problem for tech companies in other areas, who routinely see innovative college students and recent graduates moving across the country for better options.
How can smaller tech companies compete with the big guys when trying to attract and retain tech talent?
At Katapult Engineering, we decided to start a STEM initiative that would expose students to cutting edge technology at a younger age, with the hope that in doing so, students would grow both in intellect and professionalism. The goal is that these students are exposed to our culture and would see that Katapult Engineering is an awesome place to work.
This STEM initiative, called KatapultLabs, is about more than just hiring innovators right out of college. Aside from recruiting, KatapultLabs accomplishes four other major organizational objectives.
- Create a safe place for Makers to gather, learn, and play.
The physical embodiment of KatapultLabs is located at 17 S. Baltimore St. in Dillsburg, PA. Because the building used to be the Dillsburg Public Library, we decided to name our MakerSpace the “Libratory,” as an homage to the previous owners.
The Libratory contains tools such as a 3D printer, laser cutter, oscilloscope, dual virtual reality rig, and more. While these tools exist to empower local Makers to design, learn, and innovate during MakeNights, we also host GameNights where families, friends, students, and neighbors can encounter a seemingly-limitless variety of tabletop games.
Most importantly, the Libratory is a safe place for community members of all ages to interact and celebrate shared interests and passions.
- Increase STEM awareness and support in our community.
Our hope is that KatapultLabs provides opportunities for all of the communities of Central Pennsylvania to get engaged with science and Maker culture. We have already established partnerships with the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, as well as Bricks 4 Kidz. Events like our Air Rocket Glider Contest provide fun for all ages while also promoting advanced STEM concepts.
By having a presence in downtown Dillsburg, we hope that STEM education and support will be woven into the very fabric of our community.
- Explore new business models, pursue deeper passions, and invest in future technologies.
My fellow employees at Katapult Engineering are a gifted, passionate, and deeply inquisitive group. While most of our work occupies a niche corner of the telecommunications industry, our passions are hardly limited to utility pole data collection.
KatapultLabs gives our organization a stepping stone to explore new technologies that could propel our service and software offerings into new industries. For example, our STEM subscription box, MakeBox, provides students with a monthly project that illustrates STEM concepts and allows for discovery and innovation.
We are also pursuing other technologies, such as modular housing, and are exploring new ways to use our current offerings. One example of this is a municipality mapping tool that allows community members to alert their municipalities of community needs (such as light outages, road kill, potholes, etc) from their mobile phones.
KatapultLabs is a tangible reminder for us to invest in our future employees, the future of our community, and future strategies and revenue streams.
- Boost our brand and name recognition.
There’s no denying that the Libratory’s window decals are eye catching, and with the downtown location, more people are seeing the Katapult logo than ever before.
Because our telecom work is so niche, there is a large portion of our community that doesn’t know what we do or why we exist.
The Katapult brand is so much bigger than photogrammetric software and ultra-efficient data collection. KatapultLabs isn’t a platform for us to talk about telecom; rather, it is an opportunity to showcase our fantastic employees, our one-of-a-kind culture, and our core values.
KatapultLabs is constantly growing and evolving. We are always looking for ways to connect students to cutting edge technology, as well as provide them with opportunities to explore and develop their talents and curiosities.