Apprenticeships Build Culture

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME on November 16, 2017

National Apprenticeship Week is going strong, and today we want to explore the impact of apprenticeships on corporate culture.

The beauty of apprenticeships is that employees get paid while training for skilled positions that will launch them on a promising and lucrative career path. Instead of racking up debt like many students pursuing two-year and four-year college degrees, apprentices earn money while they learn. As we all know, a debt-free education is a huge asset.

Another bonus is that in a Registered Apprenticeship program, certified by the Department of Labor, apprentices receive steady wage increases with proficiency so they are regularly rewarded for their hard work and advancement. Some companies also offer bonuses and other perks along the way.

And the tie to culture? All of this! Happy employees positively impact the workplace. In fact, a study showed that happiness led to a nearly 12 percent increase in productivity.

As Sean Althaus, training coordinator of San Antonio-based Cox Manufacturing, says about apprenticeships: “The biggest advantage for a company is related to culture and retention. Turnover has been on a downward trend the last two years. It’s an investment in the future.”

Cox, a 60-year-old San Antonio maker of precision-cut metal components, started the program because the company couldn’t find qualified machinists.

“We said, look, let’s just take people without experience who look like they are going to be a great employee and let’s teach them the technical skills,” said Sean.



In a recent column in Manufacturing Engineering, Sean wrote, “As a world-class company committed to learning, it was important for us to offer an industry-competitive apprenticeship program. That meant being registered and certified by DOL.”

Cox currently has 34 apprentices in various stages of their program, including three who have finished. Apprentices complete 144 hours a year for three years of Related Training Instruction (RTI), mostly through online training by Tooling U-SME. In addition, apprentices complete 6,000 hours of on-the-job learning (OJL).

These apprentices gain rewards along with wage increases, which helps build a strong culture. For instance, each time Cox’s apprentices complete a year of training, they earn a cash bonus check and an extra 40 hours (five days) of vacation time. Cox also offers 100 percent reimbursement for tuition and books if the program is transferred to college credit.

Cox and other companies are having a lot of success pursuing an apprenticeship strategy that helps build an appealing culture and the talent pipeline. There are cost savings, too, considering the average manufacturer can lose 11 percent of annual earnings due to the skills shortage.

Are you pursuing an apprenticeship strategy to combat the skills gap? How is it impacting your culture?

Tags: apprentice, apprenticeship, "Cox Manufacturing", culture, DOL, manufacturing, "Manufacturing Engineering", "National Apprenticeship Week", "Registered Apprenticeship", retention, "Sean Althaus", "Tooling U-SME", "U.S. Department of Labor"