Raleigh Businesses Team Up to Train Apprentices
A current senior at Sanderson High School, Ben Johnson knew he wanted to join an apprenticeship program as soon as he was introduced to it.
“I wanted to open up multiple opportunities for myself, because I knew I had what it took to get into college but I wanted to further myself into something I wanted to do as a career,” said Johnson, who takes high-school classes in the morning and works for Superior Tooling in the afternoon. “When I heard about this program, I was really excited because this is what I love to do—I love to make things.”
Now training its second class of students, the NC Triangle Apprenticeship Program is training talented students like Johnson for the jobs that will make its partner companies thrive. Apprenticeships combine classroom instruction and on-the-job training to teach apprentices advanced manufacturing skills. The seven member companies are Allied Automation, Buhler Aeroglide, Captieaire, GlaxoSmithKline, Morris & Associates, SCHUNK, and Superior Tooling.
“The skills [the apprentices] learn is a reflection of the needs of their employers,” said Kent Misegades, vice president and co-founder of NC TAP.
NC TAP takes a different approach to apprenticeships. Instead of each partner company establishing its own program, the partners built a program in which they can share costs and training space, as well as benefit from the professional networks of their chief executives. They even help each other train their students.
“Sometimes they won’t have the ability to teach a particular skill to one of their apprentices, so they’ll send them to a partner company,” Misegades said.
Each NC TAP apprentice earns a salary while they take classes at Wake Technical Community College and work part-time for their employer. When they finish the program, they will have earned an associate’s degree in mechanical engineering technology and learned a cross-section of basic engineering course work, including mechanical drawing, CAD, and many of the techniques that fall under mechatronics.
It also presents apprentices like Jacob Van de Putte, a senior at Enloe High School, with an alternative to a traditional four-year degree program. Instead of going to a university, he instead pursued an apprenticeship because it would give him a chance to work with his hands. He is now an apprentice with Superior Tooling.
“The thing that surprised me the most is that this was actually possible to do,” Van de Putte said. “It doesn’t require a college degree, it pays quite well, and I can eventually work [my] up to any position in the company.”
Van de Putte is right about his advancement potential. Apprentices are important members of the workforce, and even their presence can has a positive impact on their companies.
“That’s been a good motivator for the workforce themselves to be on their toes, because these are some pretty productive people, even though they’re not halfway through their apprenticeship,” Misegades said.
Companies and consortiums must register their programs with NCWorks Apprenticeship, which works with each partner on the type of training to be delivered and the salaries apprentices will earn. By helping companies train workers, NCWorks is helping businesses find the talented candidates they’ll need to grow and providing apprentices with what they need to start their careers.
“They have to earn their [co-workers’] respect as they’re learning the skills,” Misegades said of NC TAP’s apprentices. “I don’t know a single example of the apprentices we’ve taken on who haven’t done that and more.”