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Employee group assisting Black workers at Caterpillar marks 20 years

221028 CAAN anniversary 1.jpg
Joe Deacon
/
WCBU
Domenic Albert, the global chair of the Caterpillar African American Network, speaks about the employee resource group's 20th anniversary Friday at the Caterpillar Visitors Center in Peoria.

A Caterpillar employee resource group for Black workers that was originally formed in Peoria is marking its 20th anniversary.

The Caterpillar African American Network (CAAN) boasts about 600 registered members at 10 chapters across the company.

“The key areas that we focus on are community service, having a business impact, and I have a lot of fun in the areas of recruiting and retention,” said Domenic Albert, the global chair for CAAN. “We get an opportunity to get involved with early talent, get young folks involved with STEM, and also be able to help the corporation when we go to recruiting events.”

On Friday at the Caterpillar Visitors Center in Peoria, Albert sealed a time capsule commemorating CAAN’s first 20 years and presented it to Guest and Community Relations Director Henry Vicary.

“It's very special for us to be able to mark the 20th year anniversary because oftentimes when you're doing great work in the community and around the company, you're going to get busy,” said Albert. “You have to slow down and really celebrate all the hard work that individuals are doing.”

CAAN was Caterpillar’s first employee resource group when it launched, and the company now has 14 such groups. Albert, an engineer who’s been with Caterpillar since 2005, noted CAAN is a volunteer effort that’s open to all company employees as they try to build a welcoming and inclusive environment.

“Folks are really getting involved and doing the things that they're passionate about, and we want to take the time and celebrate that, and also celebrate the support and the platform that Caterpillar gives for us to have an impact on African Americans inside Caterpillar, as well as in the community,” he said.

“We do host workshops and key development meetings in order to bring information and bring perspectives to employees about where their careers can go,” he said. “We really have an impact to see the African American leaders of the company, hear their stories and understand the pathways that they took to get to where they are.”

Albert said CAAN offers unique perspectives for its members and for prospective Caterpillar employees through involvement with organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

“I was part of both those organizations when I was in college myself, so it really comes full circle to be able to say, ‘Hey, we can bring ideas and opportunities to the company that may not have otherwise been noticed,’” Albert said. “Then we can have our individuals and our members be able to connect with that, give back to the community, give back to those organizations, and have a win-win benefit for both the individuals working as well as the company.”

The time capsule will be reopened in 10 years, and Albert said he's eager to see how the group will be able to advance over the next decade.

“Part of the reason that I was able to really get connected and be successful within Caterpillar back when I started was because CAAN was that place that felt like home,” said Albert. “I got connected with folks that were able to give me direction on things to do in the area, and opportunities that we have within the company.

“So at the core, I really am looking forward to us continuing that vision to stay connected in recruiting, retention, mentoring, professional development, and to continue to grow that with new and fresh ideas. Innovation is a part of what we do at Caterpillar, and I think that's also a core part of what we do at CAAN. So I'm really excited to see what the future is going to hold for the ideas that come forward for us to keep our foundation intact.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.