Many companies have launched efforts to insinuate their training needs and offer their financial support to colleges, universities and high schools that will help them raise up the future workers they need in a labor-starved economy.

But Thor Industries Inc. CEO Bob Martin is among the few so far who have been willing to reach out to elementary schools, teachers and students to enhance appreciation for his company – and help set the stage for recruitment of some of those kids someday.

“We’re trying to look not only at today but also at tomorrow and 10 years down the road,” Martin told Chief Executive.

Thor and its subsidiary brands make recreational vehicles in its headquarters city of Elkhart, Indiana, and throughout northern Indiana in about 170 separate production facilities, and have about 17,000 employees nationwide. Building RVs the Thor way is a highly labor-intensive process, more like building a small house than a car, and so automation doesn’t come in as handy as in other industries.

For that reason – and to address a long-time shortage of qualified workers even before today’s record low U.S. unemployment rate – Martin initiated a program a couple of years ago that Thor calls LEAP (for Learning, Engagement, Achievement and Performance). 

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