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West Virginia’s Stellar Apprentice Program Deploys Skilled Apprentices Across America

West Virginia’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center is a strategic resource helping manufacturers provide pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeship programs, and high-tech training for new and incumbent employees.
Mar 15, 2022

“Ultimately, the apprenticeship program helps us reduce our recruiting costs, because we can train workers in the skills they need for the job instead of hiring them away from another company,” says Linn Yost, CEO of Micro Machine Works in Vincent, Ohio.

West Virginia’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, The Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI), has an Apprenticeship Works program which partners with manufacturers across the country to develop registered apprenticeship programs and customized workforce training for new and incumbent employees. Some of the most in-demand apprenticeships include CNC operator/programmers, tool and die makers, electrical maintenance technicians, and welding technicians.

Multiple services to help manufacturers

Nationally recognized, the program provides a wide range of apprenticeship services including developing and setting up customized apprenticeship programs to meet a manufacturer’s specific equipment, process, and product needs. It develops online training to complement hands-on training and works with businesses to identify and pull in local resources such as universities, community colleges, and technical schools to provide related training. 

“One of the things that really differentiates us is that if a company has multiple sites in different states, we can provide them compatible training and related services across all sites,” says Lucinda Curry, RCBI’s director of workforce development. “We also provide guidance to company administrators, mentors, and the apprentices themselves as well as train the trainer courses in advanced manufacturing topic areas.

Customizable to your needs

In the past six years, the program has worked with 67 company sites in 21 states and has sponsored or trained more than 700 apprentices and more than 450 pre-apprentices. Many of the manufacturers they work with have multiple locations in many states. 

“We are very agile and fill in gaps to meet companies’ training needs,”  Curry says. “For example, we are an important resource for small- and mid-sized manufacturers who want a registered apprenticeship program but need administrative and related training expertise which may not always be available locally.” 

As part of RCBI’s customization, industry-recognized credentials such as NIMS for machinists or AWS for welders can be added and RCBI trainers are prepared to administer preparation and testing for both NIMS and AWS.

Ohio company trains five apprentices Micro Machine Works is a small, southern Ohio-based manufacturer that has benefited from the program. “We are a small job shop with 18 employees and have used the apprenticeship program to hire skilled employees,” Yost says. “It is so difficult to find qualified employees in our region. We are currently training five apprentices through RCBI for positions in CNC machining and quality technician. Next year we plan to add an employee in an additive manufacturing apprentice program. Ultimately, the program helps us reduce our recruiting costs because we can train workers in the skills they need for the job instead of hiring them away from another company.” 

Training in Illinois and Pennsylvania Martin Engineering, headquartered in Neponset, Ill., has trained several apprentices as tool & die makers and CNC machine operators in the past several years. “We began working with RCBI in 2017, and we currently have five trainees in the CNC apprentice program in addition to an apprentice who just finished the program,” says Kathy Erdmann, Martin’s people development and training manager. “We’ve consistently struggled to find skilled operations people in our region, and we have successfully used the program to train new hires with very little experience for their positions.”

“We use the program as a structured method of ensuring good training to fill skilled labor positions that are difficult to fill,” says Tony Cates, human resources director at PCC Airframe/SPS Technologies in Jenkintown, Penn. “We’re currently training six apprentices in CNC machining. The training is robust, and the RCBI staff have been fantastic. They’ve been tremendous in supporting us to ensure the proper selection and training of employees.”

Currently, RCBI is also training apprentices for sight glass manufacturer Cyclops Industries, in West Virginia, and flooring provider Mohawk Industries, Inc. in multiple locations.

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Author
Catherine “Cat” Ross
Director of Education, Smartforce Development
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