Vance-Granville Community College officials, in collaboration with regional partners, have launched an initiative to introduce the “apprenticeship” model to students and employers throughout the area.
In December, representatives of local industries, economic developers and school system officials met at the college to learn more about the North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program (NCTAP). VGCC recently became a partnering educational institution with NCTAP. Then, in January, VGCC officials joined other colleges and manufacturers in attending the first-of-its-kind Apprenticeship Summit in Raleigh.
“Historically, apprenticeships have successfully produced high-quality employees,” said Ken Wilson, project manager for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant at VGCC, which focuses on training for advanced manufacturing. “Apprenticeships have been the primary training tool for European employees for centuries. Recently, the U.S. has reexamined apprenticeships as a means to elevate the talent pool and proficiency of employees in industry.”
At the VGCC meeting, attendees were welcomed by Dr. Stelfanie Williams, the president of VGCC, who praised the spirit of collaboration that the apprenticeship program represents.
Two industry leaders then addressed the gathering: Robbie Earnhardt, owner and president of Wake Forest-based Superior Tooling, and Stephen Tsotsoros, operations manager for Oxford-based Dill Air Controls Products, LLC. Earnhardt said that from his experience with NCTAP, “the students begin to pay dividends and recoup costs early into the program.”
Tsotsoros, whose company just joined VGCC in partnering with NCTAP, said that at least 60 percent of his facility’s workforce will retire over the next 10 years. “We’ve had difficulty recruiting and retaining employees with the necessary technical and soft skills,” he said. “NCTAP makes sense for us at Dill because it’s a pathway to having knowledgeable, loyal employees who will become the future leaders of the company.”
Typically starting in the 11th grade of high school, NCTAP is a four-year program that leads to a student obtaining an associate degree at the community college and paid, on-the-job training at the participating employer. Students in the program will be employed full-time by the company after they graduate from high school, and their VGCC tuition and fees are paid by the employer.
Also during the meeting at VGCC, Kent Misegades, vice chairman of NCTAP, thanked the college and local school systems for their partnership and for being flexible enough to meet the needs of employers and apprentices. Tsotsoros said he was glad to see that high schools are excited about and supportive of the apprenticeship model.
“Nationwide, there is a push underway to bolster apprenticeship programs offered by industry and educational institutions,” Wilson added. “In addition to NCTAP, VGCC is exploring ways to become an apprenticeship program sponsor with the state and federal governments.”
For more information about the apprenticeship program, industry representatives should contact Ken Wilson at VGCC, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (252) 738-3259.