Apprenticeships are a key part of the growth strategy for injection molder Sea-Lect Plastics Corp. in Everett, Wash., and executive Matt Poischbeg is more than happy to tell other executives about it.
He's on an advisory board of a local apprenticeship center and he advocates for them, including giving a TED Talk about how the training programs provide both skilled employees for manufacturing and good, middle-class jobs for society.
But the German-born manager has also seen up close the challenges involved in bringing that expensive training model to the United States, where apprenticeships are not nearly as common as they are in parts of Europe.
Apprentices are big part of employee development for Sea-Lect, which has about 30 employees and six formal apprentices in both mold making and plastics processing.
"Our company is really depending on our apprentices to grow," said Poischbeg, who is vice president and general manager of the molding company. "To be successful in the future is hinged on the success of our apprenticeships."
But he's also experienced the challenges: The company's mold making apprenticeship is well established, but a 2016 effort with a Seattle-area training center to start another one, for plastics processing technicians in Washington state, has been more challenging.
It's been hard to get other companies to see value in it, he said. He believes too many U.S. companies see more risk than reward because they fear the person they're training will leave to work for a competitor and they'd be too difficult to replace.
"We cannot find any other injection molders in our state who are supporting this [processing apprenticeship]," Poischbeg said. "Usually the biggest argument [against joining] is 'I'm training the workforce of my competitor.'"
Poischbeg is on the advisory committee for the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee in Seattle.