Nevada’s Apprenticeship Project helps employers meet their labor needs now | nnbw.com
Cheryl Olson
Nevada’s Apprenticeship Project

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Nevada’s Apprenticeship Project helps employers meet their labor needs now

Significant talent shortages and skill gaps are slowing employers' efforts to expand, innovate, and excel. These workforce challenges undermine productivity and profitability.

The good news? There is a program solution to meet talent challenges: Registered Apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are experiencing a resurgence as the preferred "earn and learn" model of employment across the country. They have been utilized to meet the needs of America's skilled workforce for over 75 years but many think of traditional trades such as construction, electrician and plumber as the ideal occupations for apprenticeship.

Nevada's Apprenticeship Project has broadened that scope to include nontraditional industry sectors like health care, advanced manufacturing, IT and service industries. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from apprenticeship. With the support of Nevada's Apprenticeship Project, setting up a program is easy.

Apprenticeship programs are for ambitious people of all ages who want to earn a salary while they learn, gaining real skills and knowledge. These programs offer employers the opportunity to strengthen and build their workforce, providing a tailored high-quality talent pipeline. Companies can build a highly-skilled workforce through on-the job training combined with job-related education allowing talent-seeking employees to realize their full potential. In this regard, Registered Apprenticeship programs effectively meet the needs of both employers and job-seekers.

Some employers may have hesitations about launching an apprenticeship program. Collie Hutter, co-founder and chairman at Click Bond, and Larry Harvey, director of human resources at Click Bond, were asked to clear up some misconceptions about apprenticeships.

Myth: Apprenticeships are old fashioned and just for construction or skilled trades.

Collie Hunter: It's true apprenticeships have been around since Benjamin Franklin and about 75 years ago they were structured around trade occupations. But they are hardly old fashioned — they are needed more now than ever. Due to a general lack of workers who have the skills needed for the changing manufacturing industry, the labor shortage isn't just a Nevada problem, it's a national problem. That said, if the United States is going to continue to compete on a global platform, we need more skilled workers with consistent training. Almost every company can find an apprentice program to enhance its workforce. There are more than 1,000 approved apprenticeship programs listed by the Department of Labor — everything from a bio-manufacturing technician to an aircraft engine repair technician, and industries including Telecommunications, IT, Health Care, and Retail and Service Industries.

Myth: Registering an apprentice program is too bureaucratic and difficult.

Larry Harvey: Registering a program is much easier than people think, especially if you work with Nevada's Apprenticeship Project like we did. There are many resources in place that make launching a program easier than ever. A representative from your business will work directly with the program director at the participating school to determine the required classes, help you complete the Department of Labor paperwork and even identify potential apprentices.

Myth: My business doesn't have time to train someone, we need workers now.

Hunter: In today's climate, most businesses probably do have immediate labor needs. They probably also have midterm and longer term labor needs too — anywhere from two years to 10 years from now. As the employer, you know who is and isn't on your plant floor — it's incumbent upon you to figure out how to meet your staffing needs. Apprenticeships offer a clear path toward filling those gaps, now and in the future. Your apprentice is working for you the entire time they are training. Also, keep in mind that if your business needs someone with a combined toolmaker and machine operator skillset, for example, an apprenticeship is the ideal way to create that highly-specialized training and mentoring program to deliver on that need.

Harvey: Another way to think of this is, while you need to fill a skilled position — for example, an industrial maintenance mechanic — they can be hard to find already fully competent. If that person is already employed, they probably aren't looking for a job. So, if we as employers, don't grow those hard-to-fill positions in-house through an apprenticeship, there's a high likelihood that eventually, we'll be paying an entry level person double the rate to do that job. Why not plan, make a short-term investment, get the employee trained into your company's culture by an existing journeyworker level employee and enjoy productivity now?

Myth: Apprenticeships cost more than they are worth.

Hunter: When I look at the long view for Click Bond, 10 to 15 years down the road, I worry about where the workforce will come from. Approximately 41 percent of the workforce is approaching retirement age. We need to constantly add new employees to replace our retiring workers. It seems one of the best ways to do that is by having those experienced workers train and mentor the next generation of employees. In fact, many of those employees want to develop the next generation. Apprenticeships may not be for every company, but if your company has plans to be in business in the next five to 10 years and you have a need for skilled, journeyworker-level employees, then launching an apprenticeship program is a no-brainer. Through apprenticeships, you are developing a very skilled person, at a reasonable wage and they are immediately contributing to your company while learning the practical application from a long-time, skilled employee.

Myth: Apprentices will take advantage of the training and investment companies are making in them and then they will leave.

Harvey: Some business leaders are concerned that once an employee completes the apprenticeship program and develops a journeyworker-level skillset, they will leave, taking their training and experience elsewhere. That has not been the case at Click Bond. In just over nine years, we've had 14 apprentices and only one did not finish the program. That's a very good rate of return on our investment.

Hunter: Recruitment and retention within a business inherently has risk associated with it for apprentices, as well as non-apprentice employees. There are no guarantees. But if you take good care of your employees by offering them growing responsibility, incremental wage increases, competitive benefits, and a view of the future, they will likely develop a sense of security and will want to stay with your company. An apprentice turned journeyworker is in the ideal position to be the mentor of the next apprentice, creating additional pathways within the organization.

Cheryl Olson is the director of Nevada's Apprenticeship Project. For more information about apprenticeships, availability of employer incentives, or launch a program today, call her at 775-856-5304 or email at colson@tmcc.edu.