Apprenticeship Programs Pave Way to Sustainable Careers
Earn as you learn
By Roland Ramberg, CEO, The Gear Works, Seattle Inc.
For 71 years, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has administered on-the-job vocational training programs through their Apprenticeship Training Council. Today, there are over 13,000 employees in 7,232 companies participating in our state’s apprenticeship system. Over 625 industrial and service occupations are involved. Each occupation falls under the oversight of an apprenticeship committee which develops, administers and enforces published program standards. Specific training requirements vary for each particular occupation, but all require many hours of on-the-job training under the supervision of a seasoned, journey-level person and supplemental related instruction, usually at a vocational school or technical college.
During the training process, the apprentice is required to gain competency in a variety of prescribed skill sets. As the apprentice progresses in experience, pay rates are increased incrementally at established milestones. The employer is also required to provide the training opportunities, supervision and training records for each apprentice. At the successful completion of the program requirements, the participant is awarded a “Certificate of Completion” from the State of Washington. This nationally recognized certificate establishes the achievement of journey level status, journey level responsibility and journey level wages. In 2010, the State issued over 1500 certificates in 84 different occupations and is encouraging increased minority and female enrollment.
At The Gear Works, participation in the apprenticeship system has been on-going for many years. Journey machinists enjoy the top paid positions and status in the Company. Over half of our Grade 1 machinists have obtained their training and credentials through a registered, apprenticeship program. The Company also supports the system with representation on the Seattle Machinists Apprenticeship Committee. This participation keeps us involved with the skill standards and ever-changing job requirements that are needed in the gear industry. Recently, the Committee added more apprenticeship training programs that are now offered here, which are General Machinist, Gear Machinist, Assembly Machinist, and Maintenance Machinist. Each of these occupational objectives require over 7400 hours of on-the-job, supervised training and 574 hours of supplemental classroom instruction at Renton Technical College. Currently, The Gear Works has a total of 6 apprentices in these categories, and is considering others for enrollment.
An apprenticeship requires a huge commitment for both the participant and the Company. Both parties pledge a large investment in time, effort, energy and resources through a formal “Apprenticeship Agreement” that compels compliance to the established, written standards. Because of this, apprenticeships are not granted here without considerable due diligence. Potential candidates into the program are assessed on their work ethic, attendance, aptitude, past experience and passion to learn. However, this investment in people has proved instrumental toward the success of our business. We use the best talent and the best tools to make the best gears in the world, and our apprenticeship program has developed the skills and expertise that continues to bring customers to our door. We are very proud of our graduating apprentices and what they have contributed to the Company.
I urge anyone, especially women and minorities, who are interested in pursuing a well paid, sustainable career to inquire with their employer about available apprenticeship positions. More information is also available on the Department of Labor and Industries website. It may be time well spent.
The video below was produced by The Gear Works to showcase the quality and talent of the employees who work at the shop, while allowing them to speak to the Apprenticeship Program in their own words.