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Apprenticeships: a training edge.

A consortium of Rhode Island metalworkers think they have found an effective way to address the need for adequate worker training and school-to-transition programs that government agencies, with long-term apprentice ventures, don't seem to address.

Called MechTech, the program earlier this year graduated its first class of apprentices. Four years after they had started their training, Craig Woodbury, Matthew Robinson, and Peter Maguire received their Associate of Applied Science degrees, Rhode Island apprenticeship certificates, and apprenticeship certificates from MechTech Inc.

They were the first graduates among more than 40 apprentice trainees who had been introduced to the Rhode Island machine and tooling industry in the last five years by the innovative group of business owners.

Tired of talk and governmental studies, they created MechTech to deliver an 8000-hour apprenticeship with an accredited AAS degree from the Community College of Rhode Island. Graduates, who are trained in combined machinist/tool and die maker programs, rotate in four-month cycles among a variety of worksites and, in the process, earn a college degree.

Participating companies only have to worry about providing training to the apprentice/employee. MechTech performs all administrative functions. The employer pays no recruitment or interviewing costs and no overhead payroll expenses, such as holiday and vacation time, medical benefits, or worker's compensation--all of which are handled by MechTech.

Funding comes from the member companies, and the payroll burden, should a trainee fail or leave the program, is shared with other participating companies.

Companies are also permitted the flexibility of taking trainees on a per-cycle basis. MechTech has found that about half of its member companies accept a student all of the time, while the other half participate periodically, depending on the economy or the size of the worksite.

The MechTech program compares very favorably with private apprenticeship programs. They have more in common than not. Graduates of both programs are better trained for future employment. In private programs, however, companies must wait four years before they recover the time and money from their training investment, assuming that graduates stay employed by the company that trained them.

Even if that investment pays off, the apprentice has experience based on only one company's perspective. Rotating among a number of training companies gives the apprentice a broader perspective on how to improve manufacturing processes. Increases of 20% in production efficiency are claimed by some participating Rhode Island companies that have adopted MechTech's program and trainees.

Because local businesses design the apprenticeship program, they are tailored to that region's manufacturing needs. For this reason, among others, the MechTech concept is catching on in other parts of the country. Programs are operating in Baltimore, MD, and Springfield, MA, and New Hampshire is coming on stream.

Licensing of the MechTech program to any regional operation is being done by the Rhode Island operation to provide a national structure for its graduates. The concept is well-suited for companies with five employees as well as 200, say its proponents. Organizers must also set up a partnership with an area college for an accredited program and for the associate's degree.

For more information about MechTech apprenticeship programs, contact Dona Vincent at (401) 949-2562 or circle 228.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Management Update; long-term metalworking apprenticeship venture called MechTech
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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