Employers, workforce partners and educators explore apprenticeship program opportunities

April 28, 2017

Regional employers joined workforce developers and educators at the Apprenticeship Durham Summit April 27 to discuss and explore how to develop apprenticeship programs that help more people enter rewarding careers and employers tap a valuable source of talent.

Made in Durham was interested in convening the summit with Durham Workforce Development Board, Durham Technical Community College and N.C. Division of Workforce Solutions because of the opportunities apprenticeships provide for developing an education-to-career system that will enable all Durham youth to enter rewarding careers by age 25.

Speakers and panelists discussed how apprenticeship programs benefit companies, how to create and operate them, and how to access state training funds and resources that can be leveraged to develop local talent pools and qualified employees.

“It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart business thing to do,” said N.C. Assistant Secretary of Workforce Solutions Will Collins. Apprenticeship programs can help employers address both the skills gaps and the interest gap by introducing young people to high-demand positions, steering them into those career areas and developing employees that gain the skills they need.

Forty-five percent of jobs over the next decade will be in middle-skill occupations, which require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree, such as associate degrees and certifications, said Dr. Pamela Howze, executive director of work-based learning, business and veterans services for the N.C. Department of Commerce. Apprenticeships provide an ideal mechanism for developing middle-skill workers, she said.

Apprenticeship programs help employers recruit talent and train employees to meet their particular business needs and culture while reducing training costs, boosting retention and saving money on recruiting, training and wages, said a panel of employers who shared their experiences with apprenticeship programs. Panelists were from Bryant-Durham Electrical Co., Charter Communications, C.T. Wilson Construction Co. and Machine Specialties Inc., each of which offers apprenticeship programs.

“As an employer, you’ll be able to develop a pipeline of skilled employees,” said panelist Kristey Stewart, construction industry technician for C.T. Wilson Construction.

Companies can find information and support from the state Division of Workforce Solutions, Durham Tech and other companies, said Rebecca Axford, apprenticeship training director for the Raleigh-Durham JATC Apprenticeship Program, who moderated the panel. Axford chairs a new apprenticeship subcommittee formed by the Durham Workforce Development Board to focus on expanding local apprenticeship programs and opportunities.

Made in Durham partners hope to expand the number of employers who offer apprenticeships to offer a pathway to careers for local youth and a strong talent pipeline for regional companies, said Peter Wooldridge, vice president of corporate education, continuing education and public safety services at Durham Technical Communication College. Partners will focus particularly on four high-growth sectors: information technology, health care, construction and advanced manufacturing.

For more information on creating an apprenticeship program, contact NCWorks Apprenticeship consultant Tony McKnight, who serves Durham and surrounding counties, at (336) 312-2282 or tony.mcknight@nccommerce.com.

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Made in Durham is a community partnership of educators, business, government, nonprofits, youth and young adults mobilized around a shared vision that all of Durham’s youth will complete high school and a postsecondary credential and begin a rewarding career by the age of 25.
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