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Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

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Coordinate Metrology Society Helps Companies Grow an Apprenticeship Program

Industry is trying to create its own skilled workforce

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 12:02

During the past five to 10 years, the United States has seen more industry and academic institutions embrace apprenticeship programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2013 to 2017, the number of those participating in apprenticeship programs grew from 375,000 to almost 534,000, an increase of about 42 percent. In 2017, the number of apprentices was 25-percent higher than the 20-year average of 425,000. In the UK, the trend has been even more dramatic, with a threefold increase in apprenticeships from 2005 to 2015.

Addressing the skills gap has been part of the reason for this growth—industry trying to create its own skilled workforce, but so too has been the increasing cost of education and a cultural shift that has somewhat relaxed about the idea that you have to go to college in order to get a well-paying job. In many ways, apprenticeships address both those issues. According to “Why Apprenticeships Are Taking Off,” registered apprenticeships have five defining features:

• Employers pay participants during their training.
• Programs meet national standards for registration with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) or state apprenticeship agencies.
• Programs provide both on-the-job learning and job-related classroom or technical instruction.
• On-the-job learning is conducted under the direction of a mentor.
• The training results in an industry-recognized credential that certifies occupational proficiency.

Thus, once you graduate from an apprenticeship program, which didn’t cost you anything, you have both skills and credentials to land a well-paying job. In many cases, it’s with the company that offered the apprenticeship—that’s what they hope, obviously—but it doesn’t have to be.

As good as this sounds, even if employers like the idea of starting an apprenticeship program or supporting one, not all of them know how to go about it. To address this issue, the Coordinate Metrology Society (CMS)—which supports users, service providers, and OEM manufacturers of close-tolerance, industrial coordinate measurement technology—developed an education committee. A key component of the committee’s charter is an outreach program that helps companies explore the possibilities of starting apprenticeship programs.

Chaired by Joe Sabol of Newport News Shipbuilding, which runs one of the leading—and oldest—apprenticeship programs in the country, the committee has a goal is to get the word out to industry about the value of apprenticeship programs, and how to develop apprenticeship programs for skilled metrologists, a growing need in many manufacturing industries. Because knowledge by itself isn’t enough, the committee will also share the successes and struggles of starting an apprenticeship program.

We recently talked to Sabol about his goals for the CMS outreach program.

Quality Digest: You are now the chair of the CMS Education Committee. What is the first thing that you want to concentrate on doing with the CMS? What is the first priority as it relates to apprenticeships?

Joe Sabol: I think we’re doing it right now. Getting the word out about what apprenticeships are and why this would work for you. Why should you be interested? What is the metrology field, and where is it today, and where is it going tomorrow? Why is this a fit for a business owner? Why is this something a community college would want to put effort into to help them prepare people for these career paths? Why, as a guidance counselor in a high school or in even in a younger program, should I say, “Hey, think about this. Have you heard about this?” That’s why I love what Gary Confalone with ECM Global Measurement Solutions is doing with his efforts in STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] programs. Reaching out to people, teaching people about this technology.

Then there’s the academic piece that says, OK, here’s the groundwork for this, here’s how this kind of lays out.

In addition, CMS can guide people to where there’s funding to help fund some of these programs. There’s workforce development funds out there. There is money on the table that industry doesn’t take advantage of.

QD: At the CMS conference, you introduced a couple of graduates from the Newport News Shipbuilding program as an example of people who are applying for apprenticeships: a young woman and a young Hispanic man. Based on your experience with Newport News Shipbuilding, what kind of applicants are attracted to apprenticeship programs?

JS: It’s much different than it was in the 1940s or the ’50s when it was pretty much young males who came in right out of high school, or came off the farm.... Diversity inclusion is a very big part of Newport News Shipbuilding, and what the apprentice school is about. Because you need to attract that type of new talent, you need to attract that diversity, you need to attract that broad experience level.

It has changed significantly. You know, apprenticeship schools were typically viewed as vocational-type schools or an alternative to college. Now we’re attracting people with master’s degrees, and people like the young lady you saw at CMSC, who already had a degree. We are attracting a lot of ex-military and always have. We attract those with advanced degrees. So it’s an interesting dynamic.

QD: In the long term, what is it you want to accomplish within the CMS?

JS: We really want to get the word out that [metrology] is a career path. I think for the large part, our industry has been a career by chance and not a career by choice. We think it should be a career by choice. And I think there’s an opportunity to do that because this technology continues to grow, and the need for this this type of individual continues to grow.

I think that between colleges and apprenticeships, there’s a perfect opportunity for CMS to be the keystone of all that. The kind of the group that helps pull all that together. CMS can get the word out, tell young people, “Here’s a career path you may want to consider, and here’s how you do it. And then help companies not only attract those people, but help companies set up their apprenticeships and walk them through it, because each state has different rules, not to mention national rules.

CMS can help educate the colleges, too. You don’t really see a solid career path, whether it be a two-year or four-year college, where you can get a degree in this. You generally get a degree in mechanical engineering or maybe surveying, and then you kind of bleed into the metrology business.

So I think that’s where CMS has an enormous opportunity to kind of be the spokesperson, a guide, to help and explain what it takes to do this. The [3D metrology] qualification and certification piece that CMS has now is a tremendous springboard for that because it helps set standards, and it helps people get to a level that makes them more professional in what they do and to be recognized for what they do.

QD: And finally, as an example of what an apprenticeship program can do for a company in terms of building its own workforce, what impact has Newport News Shipbuilding’s apprenticeship program had on your own workforce?

JS: While graduates only make up approximately 13 percent of the workforce at Newport News Shipbuilding, more than 40 percent of frontline supervision and better than 45 percent of our entire production leadership team in manufacturing and construction are graduates. Engineering has also recognized that apprentices and apprentice graduates have shipbuilding experience, that coupled with an engineering degree and experience, make them valuable members of the engineering corp. We also have nontraditional apprentice programs that include dimensional control technician, modeling and simulation analyst, and marine engineer, to name a few. These programs are designed to provide apprentices in one of our 19 traditional crafts, an opportunity to graduate at technician and professional levels while also acquiring associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in engineering.... The apprentice school has and continues to develop not only skilled craftsmen and craftswomen but also focuses on the development of leaders.

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Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest’s editor in chief.