Indianapolis — Sea-Lect Plastics Corp.'s principal mold maker was retiring and the injection molder began down the road to try to find a replacement.
It placed an ad in the local newspaper. No bites. It expanded the search nationally. Nothing there either. It turned to local community and technical colleges. Nope, sorry. No one there was interested. It hired a headhunter. No luck there either.
"We had to start an in-house training program and find our own apprentice," said Matt Poischbeg, the company's vice president and general manager.
Poischbeg heard about a mold making program with the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, (AJAC) and when someone with mold making assistant experience came to the company's Everett, Wash., headquarters after being laid off, it enrolled him in the program.
"We have added two more mold maker apprentices, four plastics processing technicians apprentice and one youth apprentice," Poischbeg said. "They are the foundation of our growth."
Poischbeg, originally from Hamburg, Germany, discussed apprenticeships at the Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference organized by the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors.
"Apprenticeships are the backbone of the middle class in many countries," he said, "but here in America, that value is totally underestimated. And that's a shame. We need to transform our K-12 education system so it doesn't automatically push our kids into higher education. Not everyone is ready to go to college right out of high school."
Poischbeg was one of those students. He went to college when he was 29 and did two different apprenticeships.
"K-12 does not prepare our kids for success in industry," he said.
Poischbeg advocated for systems like AJAC that are tied to the state and are official programs. They have specific rules and regulations, but he said those hoops are important and good to jump through. In the program, apprentices are paid, and they know what their salary will be upon completion of the program. In addition, they graduate with professional certification, college credit and skills for life, he said.
Sarah Shea, director of human resources for Tsuchiya Group North America/Tasus Corp., said it takes a different track when it comes to apprenticeships. Shea said Tasus has an internship program for professional and corporate positions and an in-house apprenticeship program for technical positions. It doesn't use formal state-sponsored programs.
"Our hope is that we can bring in top talent, get them grounded within our culture, our processes. And then grow and develop them so that when they are done with school, they want to join the company for the long term," Shea said about Tasus' programs.
She said the company has dipped its toes into the programs have had great success with them. She said with internships, the company often will tailor the program to the interests of the specific employee. It recently had someone interested in both marketing and human resources, so Tasus developed a program so the intern could split time between the two departments.
In terms of apprenticeships, Tasus has had seven come through the technical program and four have been hired full-time. There are two more currently in the program, she said.