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NATIONAL APPRENTICESHIP WEEK 2020: 5 MD MEP APPRENTICES DISCUSS THEIR JOURNEYS

This week is recognized as National Apprenticeship Week, a nationwide celebration focused on demonstrating the value apprenticeship programs offer for both businesses and career seekers. As a Registered Apprenticeship Sponsor, our team at MD MEP has witnessed firsthand the significant impact apprenticeship can have on both manufacturers and young workers in Maryland. For our local manufacturers, who continue to cite recruiting and maintaining workforce as their number one concern, apprenticeship empowers them to develop their talent from within, while building the specific skillset the company needs. And for our apprentices, these programs provide the opportunity to earn pay while learning on the job and working towards certification in their chosen field, securing a pathway to a sustained and fulfilling career. 

Over the past year, MD MEP has worked with five trainees at various stages of their apprenticeship journeys. Textron Systems is the newest company to partner with MD MEP on a competency-based apprenticeship program, and Peter Brown and Ryan Ramsey were the first candidates chosen to train as CNC Machinists. For Peter, who has been pursuing a career in machining since high school, this apprenticeship represents an opportunity to greatly accelerate his personal and professional growth. 

“My father explained to me what a machinist was when I was in high school, and I was immediately intrigued and knew it was something I could jump into. Since taking one machining class in high school, I’ve worked in two separate machine shops and learned new things every day,” he says. “My career goal is to achieve the highest level of machinist certification possible, and this program will force me to learn a lot of diverse and advanced skills that otherwise, I may have only been able to learn in the shop.” 

For Ryan, who had already worked at Textron as a training machinist for a year before beginning his apprenticeship, this program is a way to become a better asset to the company and move forward in his career as he grows with the trade. 

“This internship has enabled me to gain the knowledge and experience needed to feel competent, and I know that I can take on any task that might be given to me. This apprenticeship will allow me to get the experience I don’t currently have to tackle those tough problems,” he says. “My goal is to get certified. Without this apprenticeship, I could have operated those machines for 40 years, but I wouldn’t have a piece of paper with my name on it saying I’m qualified for these tasks and this is very meaningful to me.”

Matt Howell is in the second year of his four-year apprenticeship as an Industrial Maintenance Technician at Berry Global. He says the most difficult part of his apprenticeship has been learning to work on older equipment that he has no prior knowledge of or experience with, but he recognizes that troubleshooting has become much easier to him since beginning the program. 

“Over the past year, I’ve developed a wider range of experience, and I’m applying new skills that I didn’t use frequently before I began this program,” says Matt. “My advice for anyone starting out in an apprenticeship is to absorb all the knowledge you can from the older guys and keep it simple.” 

Two people who can perhaps speak best to the benefits of apprenticeship are Mike Mench and Jake Thorn, who one year ago became the first to complete the new CNC Machinist apprenticeship program at Dixon Valve. Both report that work has been extremely busy since graduation. 

“Even with the virus, my particular role has been nonstop,” says Mike, who knows that even though he has progressed to this point, he still has a lot to learn. “Each time we get experience on a new machine or type of work style, our window of knowledge gets bigger and bigger. My next career goal is to do less work on the small time issues around the shop and focus more on new processes and creating more technical work holding and machining,” he said.

“Work has been great since graduating,” says Jake. “Before the program, my biggest obstacle was having to justify almost everything I did or wanted to try, but my new credentials have given me the credibility and trust from management to make and be involved in higher-level decisions and projects. I feel more confident in my ability to plan, make operational, and receive these machines in a short period of time.” 

For Jake, the most valuable takeaway from his apprenticeship was learning to slow down. 

“Coming from a production role, everything is about meeting your numbers and efficiency, and I tried applying that concept to anything I did,” he says. “In my apprenticeship I realized slowing down and thinking critically about what’s in front of you can be much more efficient.” 

Having experienced the benefits of apprenticeship for themselves, both Mike and Jake encourage more manufacturers to offer apprenticeship opportunities for young employees. 

“In my opinion, if you are going to grow as a company, you need to continually upskill the people who are directly responsible for your product,” says Mike. “If each person operates at a higher level, the quality, throughput and potential should increase, while issues decrease. And speaking from experience, adding the program, even with a small class size, offered a boost in morale for people as well.” 

“Apprenticeship builds confidence, not only in day-to-day duties, but also in your professional interactions, says Jake. “It gives your employees a goal to strive for and encourages them to work hard to make it in the program. And why wouldn’t you invest in your workforce?” 

To learn more about growing your company’s workforce through apprenticeship, please contact us at 443-343-0085 or info@mdmep.org