Apprenticeship Program Celebrates 20 Years of Success

By Sarah Asp Olson

A group of North Carolina manufacturers has long known the value of training a workforce from within.

Apprenticeships have been getting more and more national buzz in recent years. In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for increased apprenticeships and training programs. The U.S. Department of Labor followed up in 2015 and awarded $175 million in grant money through the American Apprenticeship Initiative, a move that allows recipients to train about 34,000 apprentices across many industries over the next five years.

While American employers are catching on to the value of training a workforce from within, the concept isn’t new for a group of manufacturers in Charlotte, North Carolina. Back in 1995, two local manufacturers — Max Daetwyler Corp. and Blum — launched Apprenticeship 2000 as a way to cultivate a skilled workforce.

“They realized early on that technically trained folks were in high demand and hard to find,” says Bob Romanelli, Daetwyler’s apprenticeship coordinator. “They felt as though the only way they could do that was to create a workforce from within.”

Today, Apprenticeship 2000 has five manufacturing partners that have collectively graduated 136 apprentices over the past two decades. The four-year apprenticeship starts with a recruiting process that includes a six-week summer internship for high school juniors and seniors.

Once hired, apprentices work four days per week under mentor supervision. In addition to wages, Apprenticeship 2000 partners pay for students to attend Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), where they work toward a degree in mechatronics.

Thanks to the close collaboration between Apprenticeship 2000 partners and CPCC, students are guaranteed the most up-to-date training available, specifically targeted to meet industry needs.

“A lot of the employers serve on advisory boards and give feedback,” says Jill Lutz, executive director for workplace learning and cooperative education at CPCC. “Faculty listen to what those employers need because we want to make sure we are training people in the right way that is of most benefit to our local employers.”

The combination of on-site training and up-to-date curricula produces exactly the highly trained, skilled workforce Blum and Daetwyler envisioned when they launched Apprenticeship 2000.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years; that has to prove something,” Romanelli says. “If we look back at all of the students that have gone through this program, I think our numbers speak for themselves.”

Apprenticeship: by the numbers

  • The first class of seven apprentices graduated in 2000, hence the name Apprenticeship 2000.
  • In its 20 years of operation, 136 apprentices have graduated from the program, 54 are currently working their way through, and 435 applicants have participated in the summer internship program.
  • Apprenticeship 2000 students work four days a week and attend college one day per week.
  • Apprenticeship 2000 partner companies pay 100 percent of their students’ college tuition. Apprentices’ starting pay for time spent on the job and in the classroom is $10 per hour.
  • Member companies invest about $160,0000 dollars in salary, tuition and benefits for each apprentice. This works out to roughly $40,000 per apprentice per year.
  • Graduates are not obligated to stay at the companies for which they apprenticed, but they are guaranteed a job upon graduation. Romanelli estimates more than 60 percent stay on for five years or more.
  • Apprentices represent 7 percent of Daetwyler’s workforce. Apprentices at partner companies Ameritech, Chiron and Pfaff make up 22.7 percent, 6 percent and 35 percent of the workforces, respectively.

Photo courtesy of Daetwyler

Sarah Asp Olson

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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