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McDowell apprenticeship pipeline: MTCC partners to build workforce talent
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McDowell apprenticeship pipeline: MTCC partners to build workforce talent

MTCC partners with area companies

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McDowell Technical Community College is dedicated to supporting regional workforce development, leaders said last week.

The newly-branded McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline, in cooperation with ApprenticeshipNC, is dedicated to ensuring the region has an innovative, relevant, effective and efficient workforce development system. The goal is to develop adaptable, work-ready, skilled talent to meet the current and future needs of workers and businesses to achieve and sustain economic prosperity, according to a news release.

“There are many different types of apprenticeships, and they vary in length, level of education required and level of time and financial commitment required on the part of an employer,” said Stacy Buff, dean of Career and Technical Education at McDowell Technical Community College. “However, what they all have in common is providing a clearly defined path to work, earn money and make progress toward becoming a journeyman or master of a particular occupation.”

Apprenticeships involve some level of formal education at the community college level to make certain that apprentices have the knowledge and technical abilities to be competent in their chosen professions, as well as the hands-on skills training they receive at both the college and on the job with employers.

In cooperation with McDowell County Schools, MTCC also sets up seamless pathways for students who participate in pre-apprenticeship programs in high school to earn college credit and then make the transition into a full apprenticeship program while earning a college degree.

“McDowell Tech is committed to partnering to meet the needs of both students, or apprentices, and employers, or master craftsmen/women, and growing the local apprenticeship program at MTCC,” said Buff.

In recognition of the economic impact of the apprenticeship program on local workforce development, the college highlighted the role of apprenticeship programs at McDowell Tech, as well as the growth of employers participating in the program, during the week of Nov. 15-21, which was designated by the U.S. Department of Labor as National Apprenticeship Week in the United States.

Since the reorganization of the apprenticeship program under the N.C. Community College System in 2016, the number of individuals training in various skilled employment tracts has more than doubled and grew 37% in just one year from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, 15,657 individuals in North Carolina participated in apprenticeship programs.

The high rate of growth is largely a reflection of increasing industry demands for skilled employees and the realization that nationally recognized Registered Apprenticeship programs are a strong and viable solution to meeting those needs.

At McDowell Tech, six local industries are currently participating in the program, and the college is working to increase employer participation each semester:

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Baxter Healthcare

Columbia Forest Products

Continental

Morris Heating and Cooling

WestRock

According to recent statewide surveys, these employers benefit from not only finding and developing qualified employees for critical, skilled, in-demand jobs, but also benefit from increased productivity, employee retention and skills flexibility among apprentices.

For apprentices, the benefits are even greater. Currently, grants and federal or state funding is available to pay for tuition for students in the apprenticeship program, and at times when those funding sources aren’t available, employers pick up tuition costs.

Secondly, students receive generous salary packages from their employees. In North Carolina as a whole, the average annual wage of an apprentice at any level of experience is $34,000 in manufacturing programs, $36,900 in construction programs, and $39,100 in other areas. In addition, some employers also cover benefits packages for their employees.

Third, students may earn certificates, diplomas or associate degrees while they participate in these programs.

Finally, when they complete the program, registered apprentices earn state and/or federal certificates or other credentials signifying their knowledge and skills in a particular profession, according to the news release.

All McDowell Tech curriculum students are eligible to participate in defined apprenticeship programs. Because McDowell Tech is an approved provider of apprenticeships through the U.S. Department of Labor, veterans also are eligible to participate in these programs and can continue to receive G.I. Bill benefits until they complete the program or their benefits are depleted, whichever comes first.

Students, potential students and employers who are interested in participating in an apprenticeship program at McDowell Tech may contact Rob Flannery, Work-Based Learning Coordinator, at 828-652-0657 or by emailing him at rjflannery13@go.mcdowelltech.edu.

“Expanding the pipeline of workers regionally takes meaningful partnerships,” said MTCC President Brian S. Merritt. “Our McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline will open the door to so many more in our region to earn wages while gaining new skills and credentials that lead to good careers.”

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