From INSIDE BUSINESS By SANDRA J. PENNECKE
As part of its commitment to business diversity, technology and talent development, Ferguson, the Newport News-based plumbing supplies distributor, has signed an agreement with Norfolk State University.
The partnership between the company and the historically black college and university will give students opportunities for business development education, internships and mentorships.
Cathy Williams, Ferguson’s business diversity and government administration manager, and Glenn Carrington, dean of Norfolk State’s business school, began discussing the partnership as part of the Ferguson’s supplier diversity program outreach efforts.
That discussion showed them the possibilities for talent recruitment, potential internships and the development of workshop content for the students in the school of technology.
“The benefits are both to Ferguson and Norfolk State University alike,” Williams said. “Our plan is to provide opportunities to students around internships, guidance in the business school’s curriculum, involvement in technology focused workshops and overall soft skill mentoring.”
And, Williams said, the university will be able to tailor its programs to include more of what companies are in search of.
Carrington said in a news release that the agreement will help students be ready to thrive before and after graduation.
“To be first-day ready, we need communication skills, we need problem solving skills, we need interpersonal skills and we need to know what the industry wants our students to have when it comes down to technology,” Carrington said. “Those are the things we will figure out from having this partnership with Ferguson, so I’m very excited.”
The partnership will take flight this year, starting with the development of a start-up event that will focus on creating potential products and services for the industry. The three-day pitch event will be in partnership with the business diversity department and Ferguson Ventures, its corporate venture capital and strategic partnering arm.
A 12-week series for students will focus on business strategies, innovation and automation.
Ferguson took part in Norfolk State’s career fair in February.
The company also has relationships with Old Dominion University, the College of William & Mary and Christopher Newport University.
Christine Dwyer, Ferguson’s director of communications and public relations, said they have attended general career fairs, departmental/major specific fairs and classroom information sessions at the other local universities.
“We partner strategically with specific departments — entrepreneurship, supply chain, information technology and cyber security — to support students’ growth in the field of their choice,” Dwyer said.
Founded in 1953, Ferguson has approximately 27,000 employees in 1,400 locations. It is wholesale distributor of residential and commercial plumbing supplies and pipes, valves and fitting, HVAC equipment, fire protection systems, waterworks, and industrial products and services.
Mike Sajor, Ferguson’s chief information officer, said the new partnership with Norfolk State is a great opportunity to support and encourage tomorrow’s industry leaders.
“We are stronger together. Everyone — associates, customers, partners, vendors and investors — play an active part in who we are today and who we will be in the future,” Sajor said. “We are grateful for the opportunity this partnership represents, as it aligns precisely with our desire to ensure our workforce for the future is diverse and possesses the skills needed to power Ferguson’s, and our customers’, future successes.”
Williams, Ferguson’s business diversity and government administration manager, said: “With this relationship we hope that Ferguson will become an employer of choice for tech and non-tech talent alike. We look forward to creating more of these partnerships with other historically black colleges and universities in our region and Virginia to expand our reach for new business ideas and to attract diverse talent to continue to grow our company.”
Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-222-5356, firstname.lastname@example.org
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