PULASKI COUNTY, Va. – Eager young students got an up-close look at the high-tech equipment inside Volvo’s massive Dublin plant Monday, as the workers they observed deal with the positives and negatives of the trucking industry.
10 News was the only TV station watching as dozens of these future engineers -- local middle schoolers who are interested in STEM learning -- got to see the robotics inside the cab assembly plant.
“I want to be an engineer. It helps me get a good perspective of what they do and how they do it.” Auburn Middle School 8th grader, Joshua Parsons, said.
The students were from the Pulaski County, Montgomery County and Radford city school systems and most were members of robotics teams.
The plant’s general manager, Franky Marchand, said the event is a way for the company to give back to the community.
“Once you get engaged in something cool like STEM, which some of us believe very strongly in, it’s a gift that keeps on giving,” Marchand said.
He added that hands-on STEM learning gives them invaluable skills, and these kids could very well be working there one day.
“Let them practice things, and not just the technology, but the working together part. They are working together, collaborating, solving problems together, and that is worth gold for any job,” he said.
The students were touring a plant that’s experiencing the ups and downs of the trucking market, company leaders said.
Last month, Volvo laid off 700 employees at the facility.
“That’s part of our industry. It slowed down, and we have adjusted,” Marchand said.
The fate of the laid-off workers is unknown.
“This is a wait-and-see,” he said. “We have a process to review. We see the demands on both the economy and our industry in particular, so we stand ready to go up anytime the market wants it. What’s important is to match the market, to be well-balanced. We think we are.”
The plant reached 3,500 workers before the recent layoffs, which is double the number that there were three years ago. Right now, nearly 3,000 employees work at the plant.
Amid the layoffs, Volvo is still pushing forward with planned expansion.
Aspects of the June announcement, which called for nearly 800 jobs in the next six years and an investment of $400 million dollars, are underway.
On Monday, 10 News visited a new building that Volvo built since this past summer. There are also plans to start construction soon on a new, 350,000-square-foot building nearby.
Marchand said Volvo is ready for whatever the future brings.