Michael Lauther with Phoenix Metal Products, Inc.

Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) Apprenticeship program apprentice , in Fort Pierce. PHOENIX METAL PRODUCTS, INC.

Why an apprenticeship program might be just what your company needs


Employers: Is recruiting a reliable stream of qualified job candidates becoming a challenge? Do you want to plan for the future to create a workforce for the next 20 years and beyond?

If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, an apprenticeship program custom-designed for you by CareerSource Research Coast could be just what your factory floor needs.

In many manufacturing industries on the Treasure Coast, and beyond, finding skilled craftspeople — welders, machinists and machine operators among other trades — is becoming a serious and time-consuming challenge for employers.

Finding trained applicants in the burgeoning logistics industry on the Treasure Coast is another area where demand is outstripping supply.

That demand is poised to soar in the near future as large companies discover the strategic location of the Treasure Coast. Walmart, CVS and Amazon may be only the beginning.

CareerSource Research Coast can help your employment needs by crafting 18-month, industry-certified programs that combine on-the-job paid training with related classroom instruction through our local training providers, which include Indian River State College and its Corporate and Community Training Institute. Successful graduates of these programs can gain industry certification that broadens their marketability and their paychecks.

Currently, CareerSource Research Coast has Certified Production Technician and Certified Logistics Technician programs (for the warehousing and distribution industry) that could benefit your company. CareerSource Research Coast is currently assessing demand for apprenticeship programs in other high-demand fields, including IT and insurance agent training.

An apprenticeship program has many benefits, whatever your point of view:

For employers: Enhance the stability of your workforce, especially for hard-to-fill positions or trades. You’ll have the ability to train a new generation of skilled workers. That allows you and your employees to plan for the future. After a small outlay, you may be eligible for reimbursement designed to offset the employer’s cost for providing job training.

An apprenticeship program allows employers:
• To customize the hiring process
• To attract teachable talent
• To hand-pick promising candidates
• To train according to specific needs
• To save on recruiting costs

apprentice Bobby Arnold with The Porch Factory

Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) Apprenticeship program apprentice Bobby Arnold with The Porch Factory in Fort Pierce. THE PORCH FACTORY

For employees: You can learn a new skill and industry certification while earning a salary. This paid training comes with increased earning potential over the lifetime of your career and no backbreaking student debt once you’ve completed your training. Apprentices who complete their program earn approximately $300,000 more over their career than non-apprenticeship employees.

For parents: Apprentices earn while they learn. A national survey by the U.S. Department of Labor found that those who completed an apprenticeship program could expect to earn an average $60,000 starting wage.

Currently, eight manufacturing companies across the Treasure Coast are engaged in an IMT registered apprenticeship program with 24 participating apprentices. Almost without exception those manufacturers are enthusiastic about the programs and the rewards they see in them.
Here’s what some of them have to say about the value of apprenticeship programs.

Shane Mullan, vice president of operations, Aluma Tower Company, Vero Beach Aluma produces specialized communications equipment for military and government applications to handle emergency communications, surveillance and weather forecasting.

Mullan said his company is the first in Indian River County to set up manufacturing apprenticeship programs. He is a strong proponent of the idea and has a personal stake in training apprentices. He was a high school dropout who later earned his GED. He began work with Aluma 13 years ago as a welder, working his way up to his current position.

“Would I (take on more apprentices)? Absolutely. Our employee is working out really well. He has a lot of energy and has taken on learning welding during his lunch breaks. He’s adapted well to fabrication. I’m looking forward to the next round (of apprenticeship opportunities). We are doing a lot of hiring and have found some good talent, but the labor pool in Vero Beach is not big enough for our needs. We have some people traveling from Port St. Lucie.”

St. Lucie County Career Center located in Port St. Lucie

CareerSource Research Coast operates from its St. Lucie County Career Center located in Port St. Lucie. IRSC

Jim Brann, owner, The Porch Factory, Fort Pierce
This manufacturer of screen and pool enclosures, sun rooms and entryways employs 33 people. Over the last two years, the Porch Factory has hired three apprentices.

“All are doing well and producing for us. For us it’s a win-win. Yes, we paid $700 per apprentice, but their wages are paid back to us (up to about $6,500). So, there’s no money (outlay) for us. It’s a continual problem getting qualified people. We already had an in-house apprenticeship program to address that need, but we took advantage of the CareerSource Research Coast program so that our employees get not only on-the-job training but management and other classroom skills.

“Employers must take training more seriously; they need to take the longer view. It’s no longer a money issue (because of CareerSource Research Coast Florida grants). I don’t understand why more companies don’t do it.

“Yes, absolutely, we’d do it again, no question. We need to continue these programs to help our workforce now and in the future.”

Bill Wilcox, co-owner, Phoenix Metal Products, Inc., Fort Pierce
Phoenix fabricates a range of equipment for the civilian and military aviation industries, notably passenger stairs (used on Air Force One by the last three U.S. presidents), lavatory and other service trucks and carts for airline servicing for rapid turnarounds on the tarmac.

Phoenix currently employs two apprentices, Wilcox said.

“Are we happy? Yes, and they seem happy, too. The results seem really good. One of them attended a high school with some certification training; the other came here with no experience. But both are doing some beautiful welding. I want people who have initiative, who want to learn. Some of them these days can’t even read a tape measure!

“We employ specialized welders, machine operators and assembly mechanics. The last two (working with hydraulics and electrical systems) are very tough positions to fill. We can’t find anyone with the experience that we need. So, we’re starting from scratch to build a workforce. They can earn up to $18 an hour once they complete the course. We need to get the word out to more companies, and to parents. I think parents, in particular, need to be told about the advantages of an apprenticeship program, especially on-the-job paid training. They can earn while they learn.”

Larry Hawes, general manager, Lenco Marine, Stuart
This company, part of the Mercury/Brunswick Corporation, manufactures actuators for boat trim tabs, hatch lifts and associated control switches for the marine industry.

Lenco has hired four apprentices through a partnership with CareerSource Research Coast and the Treasure Coast Manufacturers Association.

“We feel very fortunate to have discovered this program. It is a very good program that needs to be expanded and supported. It helps identify individuals that are focused on learning and acquiring skills in the manufacturing trades. This keeps all parties vested in the outcome and expands a sustainable workforce.

“We are always trying to improve the quality of our workforce and to create growth opportunities for our employees. The low unemployment rate has been an impact, but the greater issue is to highlight trade skills as a viable alternative to college.

“We concluded very quickly that we did not have the bandwidth or expertise to create a sustainable program. The work done by CareerSource Research Coast, TCMA and the (economic) development corporations on the Treasure Coast has been groundbreaking and collaborative. Why would we not leverage these resources?”

Treasure Coast manufacturers who have partnered with CareerSource Research Coast value the caliber and enthusiasm of apprentices in their programs and are focused on enhancing their specialized workforces for the future through training programs.

“Work-based learning combined with academic and technical skills brings tremendous value to both the employee and employer,” says Marcelo Dossantos, vice president, strategic initiatives, at CareerSource Research Coast. “That is why investing in talent development through apprenticeships is the right strategy for area employers to gain a pipeline of dependable skilled workers to boost their productivity and improve the bottom line.”

If you’d like more information about the many advantages of apprenticeship programs, contact: Susan Haggard, sector strategy coordinator at CareerSource Research Coast, 866.482.4473, ext. 415, or [email protected]

Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Magazine Inc. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

According to CareerSource Research Coast, the most in-demand employment openings in our area are:

Warehousing and distribution
Skilled trades
Financial services

There is potential for apprenticeship programs in many of those areas.

Did You Know?

• 97 percent of Florida employers recommend apprenticeships as a training model.
• 91 percent of apprentices are still employed nine months after completing programs.