Many companies today continue to struggle to find skilled labor, and an apprenticeship program can prove to be a positive step toward developing a pool of talented prospects.
With about 10,000 U.S. baby boomers retiring every day, there will be 2 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2025. As a result, apprentice programs, like the American Injection Molding Institute Plastics Process Technician Apprenticeship program, are becoming more popular due to the increase in manufacturing and the need for skilled workers.
Some companies offer certifications, which apprentices receive after completion a course, which can be done in person for in a virtual setting. For example, one college offers a virtual Industrial Manufacturing Technician program that can be done remotely, onsite at a factory or at the college campus.
Starting an apprenticeship program can vary from state to state, so companies should be sure to check for details in their state. Apprenticeships are viewed as a major resource for workforce development and a way to "grow their own" employees.
The best apprenticeship programs are supported by company management and progress is monitored to ensure the apprentices are gaining skills. Apprenticeship programs that are state registered will carry more value for the individual as it would be recognized in the industry as a vetted program.
Corporate culture also plays a key role in whether the workers will stay with a manufacturer after the apprenticeship.
To date, the few companies throughout the industry that do have apprenticeship programs in place have done so out of necessity.
However, the outlook for apprenticeship programs may be positive. Some more forward-thinking companies realize that they must begin to think about the future as the current talent pool starts to thin.
High schools are even getting into the act, offering STEM courses to get students interested in manufacturing. Plastics companies and trade organizations can fuel this interest by supporting these efforts.
A few high schools are even considering pre-apprenticeship programs in which the student would leave the school and go work at a local company, or attend courses that are focused on an area of interest such as injection molding.
Internal apprenticeship programs started by companies generally are limited in scope and may not have value outside the company.
A good apprenticeship program is marked by the variety of courses and skills sets that give individuals an understanding of key factors related to their job. As with any course, the quality of the course and the learning experience is highly dependent on the instructor.
For a company offering an apprentice program, internal support is key. This gives the apprentices the time and resources needed to be successful.
An apprenticeship program also can be a part of a company’s long-term strategy. Experts say a company should develop a strategy that extends a couple of decades into the future.
These programs are very much about purpose, building a legacy, and sustainability.
The number of new jobs in manufacturing is expected to accelerate and grow by nearly 2 million workers by 2028, according to a 2018 study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.
In addition, more than 2.6 million baby boomers are expected to retire from manufacturing jobs over the next decade, the report said. That leaves a whopping 4.6 million jobs to fill through 2028, but only 2.2 million are likely to be filled, according to the study, citing reasons such as shifting skill sets due to advanced technologies and misperceptions of manufacturing jobs.