May 9, 2012
There was a time, not that long ago, when apprenticeship programs were the standard for developing new manufacturing talent. Young people who had an interest in manufacturing served apprenticeships through which they learned skilled trades. These days you seldom hear of such programs. What we do hear too often is how difficult it is to find qualified machinists and other employees.
It’s ironic that with such high unemployment rates, manufacturing companies report having thousands of jobs nationally that they can’t fill. If you’re one of these, perhaps it’s time to consider establishing an apprenticeship program of your own.
First, recognize that most high schools do not offer the training necessary to work with CNC machines, and many graduates who have an interest in manufacturing don’t continue their education. This means your apprentices will need additional training, and you must be willing to help fund it. Therefore, you’ll need to find local technical schools and community colleges that can provide this specialized education. You’ll also want to establish policies for reimbursing tuition costs for your apprentices that include tying the reimbursement to continued employment with your company for a specified period of time. As your apprentices are improving their education, they’ll also receive on the job training from your seasoned employees who will mentor the apprentices.
Another important aspect of an apprenticeship program is finding and selecting the right candidates. This means attending job fairs, visiting area high schools, holding information sessions and posting program details on social media and your Web site. Once you’ve identified potential candidates, you’ll want to employ a rigorous evaluation to make sure the would-be apprentices have the fundamental capabilities and commitment to succeed in the program. In your search, don’t overlook military personnel returning to civilian life. They can often bring skills acquired in the service and maturity to your program.