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National Apprenticeship Week 2021: Training Manufacturing’s Next Generation of Skilled Talent: Fabricated Extrusion Company

To commemorate this year’s National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), we are highlighting how Registered Apprenticeship provides a critical talent pipeline that can help address some of our nation’s pressing workforce challenges. From our conversations with manufacturers across Maryland, we know hiring and maintaining a qualified workforce continues to be one of the greatest concerns for our industry. As more experienced workers reach retirement age, more local companies are tasked with having to figure out how to replace this invaluable knowledge and skill within their operations.

In honor of NAW, we visited with three Maryland companies who are turning to Registered Apprenticeship as the long-term solution to this challenge. In the first post we highlighted Berry Global. Next, we learn more about Fabricated Extrusion Company.

FABRICATED EXTRUSION COMPANY

Fabricated Extrusion Company has been in business in various locations across the United States dating back more than 60 years, but its presence in Maryland is still relatively new, having opened its plant in Hagerstown in 2017. The company currently employs 25 people in Maryland and is planning to almost double its full-time staff over the next year. But while Fabricated Extrusion Company is actively recruiting new talent, they are also challenged with having to replace someone who is critical to their operation – their experienced tool and die maker.

“We make all our own tooling in house, and we have a tool and die maker who has been working for us for more than 40 years, and he is now in the process of retiring,” says Sarah Greenville, Director of Operations. “Now we are working on capturing and transferring all his knowledge in order to train up the next generation.”

To accomplish this, Fabrication Extrusion Company has registered with the State and partnered with MD MEP to create a structured apprenticeship program to certify new journeyman tool and die makers. While the program is still in its infancy, the company is fortunate to have already found its first candidate.

Joey Huckabee came to Fabricated Extrusion Company through a staffing agency, with a background in both manufacturing and extrusion. He excelled as an operator, and expressed interest in engineering, which led to him being offered the opportunity to help pioneer the new tool and die program.

“We hired Joey in January 2021, and we didn’t have the apprenticeship program finalized at that point, but we communicated with him specifically as we were developing it and promised that we would enroll him,” says Greenville. “He was officially enrolled in May, and ultimately, we envision him running the tool and die shop one day. When he graduates, our goal is to have him then train the next apprentice, and so on, so that one day we’ll have a group of tool and die makers. It’s a huge opportunity for Joey, but it’s also very much in his skillset and in his interest. We wanted to make sure we were creating a full-scale career opportunity for him, where he could see the growth potential, and gain the skillsets and knowledge he needs to be successful in this role.”

For a smaller company like Fabricated Extrusion, working with both MD MEP and the State made establishing an apprenticeship program more financially feasible.

“We don’t have people on staff who specifically focus on training, so it was definitely helpful to have a partner to help us develop the program and give us materials we could customize for our purpose,” says Greenville. “MD MEP has helped us navigate this process and get it formalized, and make sure we’re set up for success. Hopefully, having a structured program will help us recruit more candidates. As manufacturers, we all want to inspire the younger generation and let them know and understand this is a valuable career path with growth opportunities.”

To learn more about training your company’s next generation of talent through apprenticeship, please contact MD MEP at 443-343-0085 or info@mdmep.org.