A win-win program: that’s how success coach Tanya Osbia describes Apprenticeship 321 at Gaston College in North Carolina. This flexible training program marries education and work experience in a meaningful way, as the college and local manufacturers work together to cultivate highly skilled workers.
In the Apprenticeship 321 program, apprentices receive job-specific training and tuition-free education while earning a salary employed by local companies. In classrooms and labs designed for hands-on learning, students prepare for advanced manufacturing careers over a period of two or three years. Successful apprentices qualify for nationally recognized certifications as journey workers in a skilled trade and an academic credential from the college. Apprentices will also achieve a National Career Readiness Certificate, a nationally recognized work skills credential to add to their resume.
Osbia has a unique perspective on how students’ lives are impacted through this program. By monitoring the apprentices’ academics, attendance, and overall adjustment to school life, she serves as a go-to person as they work to advance their skills and careers.
“The success coach wears many hats,” she says. “I am a mentor, mediator, counselor, advocator, and motivator; but my overall job is to see that all apprentices are a success in the program.”
Impacting the county — and the world
Through her work, Osbia knows she is making a difference for the apprentices, and on a larger scale, for the county.
“This program is valuable to the county. The outcome is not only increased employment and education with no debt to the apprentice, it makes highly skilled workers readily available in our area,” Osbia says.
She notes that President Trump has emphasized the importance of advanced manufacturing in moving our country forward, and even signing a bill aimed at recruiting more women for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
Gaston College has made it a priority to recruit both men and women for the Apprenticeship 321 program, but the ideal student is anyone who is interested in the manufacturing field and/or wants to advance in their current career in manufacturing. These careers may include industrial machinery mechanic, tool and die maker, chemical operator and more.
According to Osbia, nearly all apprentice students are hired for permanent employment after completion of the program. Workers who enroll already know how to do their jobs, but may not understand the why behind their work.
“One apprentice who enrolled in the program was already employed, but stated he now understands why he does what he does and how each job performance works together,” Osbia explained.
This deeper understanding and appreciation for the field contributes to more invested workers, higher functioning teams, and greater outcomes for our local companies.
Making it work
But it’s not always easy, working full time and completing the Apprenticeship 321 program. Students take a mix of online and in-seat classes on campus. Their employers are kept in the loop regarding classes and are able to adjust their work schedules to better adhere to classes. It’s a balancing act as sacrifices are made to advance personally and professionally.
“I encourage and have a listening ear when they need to vent or are experiencing problems, in school or personally, that can hinder their completion of the program,” Osbia said. “Being a success coach also involves case management, contact with class instructors and coordination with employers to ensure each student reaches his or her potential at work and in class.”
Upon completion of the program, apprentices obtain a certificate of completion and a journey worker’s credential that can be used nationwide. They also have the option of continuing at Gaston College to earn an associate degree or pursuing their bachelor’s degree. With the journey worker’s credential alone, an apprentice can advance in their current position.
As a result of Apprenticeship 321, students reap the benefit of educational knowledge and work experience combined, and the community benefits from an enhanced job market. Businesses are seeing that Gaston County is a strong candidate when looking for skilled workers in advanced manufacturing.