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Employer-led apprenticeships help address manufacturers' skills gap

November 2, 2017

by Paul Gough, Pittsburgh Business Times https://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2017/11/02/employer-led-apprenticeships-help-address.html

A new employer-led apprenticeship program is in the early stages of helping local manufacturers address the skills gap.

The 3,000-hour program, which is being offered by Catalyst Connection, involves a combination of paid classroom and on-the-job work and is designed to alleviate one of the most vexing issues for manufacturers: Getting employees who have the requisite technical skills in today’s high-tech, advanced manufacturing environments. All of the apprenticeships will be for people interested in becoming industrial manufacturing technicians, an entry-level position that can be the building block for that job or others, like machinist, in the future.

“The whole point is to make something relatively uniform across the board that can be the entry point for lots of different positions around the company,” said Catalyst Connection President and CEO Petra Mitchell.

Eight local companies have signed up for the new apprenticeship program, which is being funded in part by the U.S. Department of Labor. None of the programs have officially launched, but some of the companies are nearing completion of state requirements to have an apprenticeship program.

Catalyst Connection has hopes for having 100 people in the apprenticeship program in 2018, a number that is possible if each of the 10 companies involved so far employ 10 apprentices. Catalyst also is looking to have other companies in the region sign up for the employer-led apprenticeships.

Catalyst Connection can help you with an apprenticeship program. click here to learn more, download our apprenticeship toolkit and contact an expert

Catalyst Connection also provides technical expertise including evaluating the apprenticeship plan, walking a company through the process and helping set up the program and connect with training providers and workforce development.

One of the companies involved in the apprenticeship program is Haemonetics, whose primary products create blood plasma using complicated equipment that requires a lot of technical knowhow to operate, especially when the equipment runs 24/7. It’s been a struggle for Haemonetics to find people qualified to become maintenance technicians, which are highly paid but also highly specialized.

Trying to build those highly technical skills — and hire for them — led the Leetsdale company to the apprenticeship program, said Ben Kessing, Haemonetics director of manufacturing operations. Haemonetics, like the other companies, are working on developing the program. Kessing expects that Haemonetics could hire as many as 10 people a year through the program.

“People with all those skills are what companies are looking for,” Kessing said. “If we’re successful, it’s going to be a very significant thing for us and needed for the region.”

Help for the apprenticeship program is coming in part from Chevron Corp.’s Appalachian Partnership Initiative, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Rand Corp. and the Benedum Foundation.

Tripp Oliver, a spokesman for Chevron, said that the company and the Appalachian Partnership Initiative have been working to help develop the region’s workforce ahead of expected vacancies over the next decade.

“We have identified Catalyst Connection as being a great partner to leverage the massive resource we have in this region, to try to develop the skills in the workforce that would take advantage of that and perhaps facilitate that kind of manufacturing rejuvenation here,” Oliver said.

Oliver said that Chevron likes to pick companies that are considered leaders in their region.

“Catalyst Connection is an example of that,” Oliver said. “They have a proven track record of success. They do a great job of engaging students and educating them with opportunities in manufacturing and just as importantly, engage with the teachers and the parents.”

Read the full article at the Pittsburgh Business Times

About Catalyst Connection

Based in Pittsburgh, Catalyst Connection is an economic development organization dedicated to helping small manufacturers to improve their competitive performance. Catalyst advisors, consultants, and instructors offer training, consulting and administer financial programs that can provide funding for equipment, machinery, or capital improvements. As a nonprofit 501 (c)3 firm, the organization has been supporting Southwestern Pennsylvania manufacturers for more than 25 years. For more information call 1-888-887-7472 or go to www.catalystconnection.org.

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