More Than on the Job Training

By Nicole Harkreader

Demystifying apprenticeships for employers is a task that local and state officials are taking on currently.  An apprenticeship program’s purpose is to invest in employees for a higher return. These apprentices follow a curriculum made specifically for their role. The intention is to hire and create strong members of the company and thus the area workforce. Apprentices learn from a mentor and have on the job training that prepares them to succeed in their field.

Every company is having trouble attracting and retaining a workforce. Establishing apprenticeship programs is one way to address this issue. According to apprenticeship.gov there is a 93% retention rate with apprenticeship programs across the United States. Loyalty is gained in these apprenticeships from employees to stay and improve their companies. Apprenticeship programs improve productivity and reduce turnover.  This workforce from an apprenticeship program is also highly skilled in their role. Apprentices learn directly from employees who have been at the company for years through mentorship.

Apprenticeships give opportunities to those who are looking to learn and are ready to start their career. Jason Curtright, Plant Manager at Refresco is researching an apprenticeship program locally. Curtright says the reason why they are choosing to start an apprenticeship program is, “the overall lack of skilled candidates is creating a vacuum in manufacturing”.

When asked what the number one goal is for this program Curtright says, “At the outset the number one goal for Refresco is to build a pipeline for all candidates locally that offers a solid career path while gaining valuable industry skills that can be utilized anywhere. The skilled labor market is desperately needing candidates to fill the void and while this program is good for Refresco, it also benefits the local community as a whole. Lastly, multiplying and perpetuating these programs will be a boom to the nation”.

This is an option for young people that can be considered because “the ability to experience real world scenarios in tandem with the education providing foundational elements behind them far exceeds the traditional routes”. These mentorships with intention guiding and leadership will grow a student to long term success. More people are staying in their companies and careers because of the apprenticeship opportunities.

The benefit of an apprenticeship program is to the apprentices and employers. There is a mutual gain with this investment. Curtright says, “With the added flexibility to earn and learn we are confident we can build the roster of employees who will be our future leaders in the business”.

The State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance together with the US Department of Labor offers incentives and resources to companies looking at starting a program. If you are interested in reviewing the benefits of a program, contact Darla Heller at darla@muskogeeport.com to learn more.