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Inside View: Rolls-Royce

Many business students have never been inside a factory, says company’s CFO

By  Sunny Li

Tue Apr 27 2010


A recruiter at Villanova School of Business since 2004, Rolls-Royce, a world-leading engineering firm, is now sponsoring a live case study in which Villanova students interact with managers in different international locations to analyse issues facing the hi-tech manufacturing giant.

This semester senior and junior students with an international business major or minor have enrolled in the course to work with Rolls-Royce managers in Reston, VA, and Derby, in the UK.   

Last semester the students analyzed foreign direct investment (FDI) to develop either wide-body or narrow-body jet engines. They short-listed Dubai, South Korea, and Virginia as potential locations.

This term their mission is to assess a proposed plant expansion to manufacture a jet engine for the "middle of the market" in Civil Aerospace.  The three possible locations are Derby in the UK, Singapore,  or Virginia.

The team’s tasks include researching the quality of the local labor force, the competitive environment, cost-benefit analysis over the long-term, supply chain management and government incentives.

Rolls-Royce has sent leading managers to run guest lectures in the classroom and also via the web.    

Gabrielle Pettinelli, a senior year Marketing and International Business major, said: “It really gives us hands-on, real world experience in international comparative management.

“Unlike some courses in which students analyze a five-year-old Starbucks or Wal-Mart case study, in this course we get the advantage of working on current and future data with Rolls-Royce.”


Villanova senior Gabrielle Pettinelli

On April 16, Boeing Philadelphia hosted business students from Villanova School of Business for an on-site visit. Students saw the production lines for the Osprey aircraft and the Chinook helicopter.

Students also met engineers and technicians to discuss the design of several Boeing aircrafts during the four-hour trip. Industry experts also answered questions from the visitors.    

Rolls-Royce North America CFO Will Powers, who helped set up the visit through a retired senior Boeing Executive, hopes this initiative can “help Villanova students widen their perspective”.

“Many undergraduate (and for that matter) graduate business students have never visited a factory or an assembly plant, let alone one that is involved with advanced manufacturing,” he says.

“I believe that industries like aerospace, defense, pharmaceutical and others not only can and will be globally competitive, but more importantly are fascinating places to work.

“And the future of advanced manufacturing is to attract a material share of the best and brightest.”

According to Powers, who is a 1982 graduate of Villanova School of Business, Rolls-Royce feels it is “very important” to form long term relationships with prestigious undergraduate business schools – including Villanova – to build a “talent pipeline” that can feed the company’s internship and leadership programs.

“We see it as a vehicle to drive interest in our company as well as advanced manufacturing,” he adds.

In return, Powers says the students get the opportunity to work in multi-disciplinary teams to develop a proposal that would “theoretically” be delivered to a board of Rolls-Royce directors.

Powers, according to Villanova senior Pettinelli, has been very “responsive” in email discussions with the students in the course. The Rolls-Royce North America CFO even took time to make suggestions for an end-of-the-year presentation that the class will present to him in two weeks.

“I have never been a part of a course where the class is in constant contact with the CFO of such an influential international corporation,” says Pettinelli.

Feedback from her peers has been “really positive”, says Pettinelli, though one change she’d like to see next year is a greater level of underclassman involvement.

“It would be advantageous to have this course [available] for [more] underclassman as learning about international management issues and speaking directly with managers can help students in their career choices and networking,” says Pettinelli, who has received a job offer to work in New York in advertising upon graduation.

With Powers confirming Rolls-R0yce’s long-term interest in his alma mater, more Villanova students look set to benefit: “Dean Danko and Dr Chaudhry and the other Villanova School of Business faculty have been terrific and open in their support for developing this case study,” he says.

“I hope that this case study will continue for many years.”