Despite the high national unemployment rate, it's still a challenge to find talented people who will mesh well with your corporate culture.
At SCA, we strive to maintain an employee-centric organization, one that employs a team-based culture. Along those lines, our management team meets regularly to review our benefits and assess how they stack up in today's marketplace. Many companies want to be a preferred employer and we feel this step is essential in achieving that goal.
About five years ago it came to our attention that college graduates were carrying some pretty significant debt loads, more than $23,000 per person on average. That's just formal debt and it does not include personal loans from family or friends. In fact, many of today's college graduates will enter the job market with debt that's in excess of $100,000. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that although the national unemployment rate continues to hover around 8.1 percent, it's roughly 6 points higher for recent college graduates.
This is not a good combination and I wish more people talked about it. Simply put: education is a fundamental part of the middle class of this country and we have to do more to make it more accessible to working families.
Upon realizing this, we as a company wanted to do something to help make education more affordable for our employees. So we started an achievement-based scholarship program for the children of our employees.
A neutral third-party organization called Scholarship America administers this program for us. They establish the criteria and they select the winners. This eliminates any corporate bias or favoritism from the process. As a result, the anticipation builds leading up to the announcement of the winners and we all share in the surprise.
At SCA, we want to take care of our employees. If people come to work worried about how they are going to pay for their children's education it can become a distraction. But if we can help ease that burden and recognize good students that's a win for all of us.
The majority of our employees in the United States work in our manufacturing facilities and the majority of the scholarships were awarded to their children. We realize that our scholarship program just makes a dent in the employees' educational burden, but the return we get from this is quite phenomenal. We knew employees would be grateful but have been surprised by the warmth and graciousness the winners have expressed to us in the way they say thank you.
You can't buy commitment with benefits like this but it is the little things that add up and ultimately equate to a committed workforce.