10 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
The Trump administration is pushing to expand
apprenticeships, last year issuing an executive
order to provide more apprenticeship opportunities nationwide and assembling a taskforce to
develop a foundation for future growth.
Training a new generation of workers will
match them with millions of available jobs, bridging a lingering skills disparity that has left many
positions unfilled, supporters say. In recent years,
apprenticeships have even started evolving beyond
traditional construction programs into industries
including IT, insurance, healthcare and banking.
Community colleges are already hotbeds of
workforce development, working to connect with
companies on a variety of job training programs,
offering nationally recognized credentials that
apprentices can build on to further their knowledge and education.
American Association of Community Colleges
President and CEO Walter Bumphus, who represented two-year colleges on Trump’s Task Force on
Apprenticeship Expansion, says the apprenticeship model is central to satisfying the widespread
demand for talented workers.
“We have a chance to be the gateway to the
middle class for many of our students,” Bumphus
says. “Students can get an associate or bachelor’s
degree, but a credential of market value can also
take them to a well-paying job. That’s been the
role of community colleges for a long time.”
GETTING AN EARLY START
Some institutions are introducing apprenticeship
programs to students as they finish high school.
Vance-Granville Community College (VGCC) signed
six high-schoolers to the North Carolina Triangle
Apprenticeship Program (NCTAP) with a concen-
tration on mechatronics.
The students are now apprentices with three
area companies—Dill Air Controls Products,
Revlon Inc. and Glen Raven Inc.—as they finish
high school and earn associate degrees at either
VGCC or Wake Technical Community College.
Per U.S. Department of Labor guidelines, the
new apprentices will undergo 8,000 hours of
training, gaining on-the-job equipment skills and
mentoring while earning college credits toward
a degree. Following graduation, participants will
have further opportunities for workforce learning
on the path to a journeyman’s credential.
VGCC hosts the curriculum portion of the training in its mechatronics lab, qualifying learners for
employment in industrial maintenance and manufacturing in areas such as assembly, testing and
repair. High school students join NCTAP the summer
before their senior year, taking two pre-apprenticeship
classes to qualify for the full four-year program.
College officials like Kenneth Wilson, a project manager for VGCC’s TechHire program, reach
out to prospective mechatronics apprentices with
assistance from high school career technical education directors.
“These students are already interested in auto-
mation and electronics, and there’s no shortage of
need in either pursuit,” Wilson says. “A couple of
our NCTAP partners are looking for their next man-
agers and supervisors. Top salaries in those areas
can be six figures, depending on the company.”
Establishing industry relationships means
reaching out to company decision-makers and eval-
uating their needs. While numerous North Carolina
firms are seeking apprentices in mechatronics
Students who committed to the North Carolina
Triangle Apprenticeship Program participate in a
signing ceremony in August 2018 as parents and
employers watch from behind.
Training the next generation of workers
By Douglas J. Guth