Cox Manufacturing: A Model Apprenticeship Program

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME on June 16, 2017

Cox Manufacturing: A Model Apprenticeship Program

This week we've heard about the White House championing efforts to build a stronger workforce by expanding training initiatives such as apprenticeship programs. At Tooling U-SME, we are already working with leading companies embarking on these learn-and-earn programs to develop the future workforce.

For instance, take Cox Manufacturing. If you have an apprenticeship program or are thinking of starting one, we highly recommend you read the column, "Apprenticeship Programs Offer Culture, Retention Benefits," in Manufacturing Engineering magazine by Sean Althaus, training coordinator at Cox.

Sean talks about how Cox, a 60-year-old San Antonio maker of precision-cut metal components, believes that companies need to have apprenticeship programs in place for the long run to help both the organization and its employees grow.

The benefits of this investment are very clear when you look at Cox, a manufacturer committed to ongoing learning: a solid pipeline of skilled workers, engaged employees and a competitive advantage. Since 2010, the company has doubled in size from 70 to 140 employees. Showcasing that success, Cox made Inc. magazine's 2014, 2015 and 2016 list of the 5000 fastest growing private companies in the United States.

It all started back in 2008 when Cox implemented a Registered Apprenticeship program certified by the Department of Labor (DOL). It's a three-year program, and it's not one size fits all. Each employee's experience and competency is assessed at the start and placed at the appropriate level. Apprentices can achieve journeyman status in the fourth year.

At Tooling U-SME, we have been fortunate to get a first-hand look at the program. Most of Cox's Related Training Instruction (RTI) is via online training through us with apprentices taking a minimum of eight classes per month to graduate on time. Classes can be completed onsite or at home, so there is a lot of flexibility.

The total apprenticeship program requires 144 hours of RTI per year for three years along with 6,000 hours of on-the-job learning. Apprentices are paid one hour of overtime per week to cover time for classes, which are off the clock so productivity is not affected.

The 34 apprentices at the company see the benefits. As Sean writes, "Apprenticeships are a risk-free, debt-free way to get skills and education. It's a beautiful model: You show up at work, do your normal duties, and the company pays you to learn while you are working."

Journeymen completing the program can earn 50 percent more than minimum entry-level pay. Pay increases are given at specific milestones based on DOL guidelines, and Cox also gives bonuses along the way.

The biggest advantages for a company implementing an apprenticeship program, according to Sean, are related to culture and retention. Cox has seen lower turnover and heightened employee engagement. The program also helps them reach younger employees.

Sean offers great tips to help if you are setting up your own apprenticeship program, so make sure to check out the article. And if you already have a program in place, we'd love to hear your story.

If you want to learn how to build a strong competency-based apprenticeship program, reach out to us at 866.706.8665.

Tags: apprentices, "Apprenticeship program", "Cox Manufacturing", "Department of Labor", DOL, manufacturing, "Manufacturing Engineering", "on-the-job learning", "Registered Apprenticeship", "Related Training Instruction", "Tooling U-SME"