8/27/15 Program aims to match students to trades

Program aims to match students to trades
GKN, other firms to announce apprenticeships for local high schoolers
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 8/27/15  
Reprinted with permission      

   Seven local manufacturers will announce a new apprenticeship program for local high school students. One of them is GKN. The others will be announced Tuesday.

   Barbara Gorman, learning and development manager with GKN Driveline, has been putting this Career Accelerator program together. She says it is similar to other apprenticeship programs around the state like Apprenticeship 2000 in Charlotte, Triangle Apprenticeship Program and Apprenticeship Catawba.

   These programs are partnerships among employers, community colleges, high schools and school districts to recruit high-school students interested in machining, steer them into community college classes, internships and apprenticeships with companies and ultimately jobs.

   Gorman told the Times-News she expects to recruit seven to 12 local students. They will spend time during the school year visiting employers and getting to know the companies and the people working there. If things work out, they will have internships and later apprenticeships as they get training at Alamance Community College.

   This will be a separate program from one in which the Alamance-Burlington School System sends students to ACC for computer-integrating machining classes, which is associated with manufacturer Sandvik.

   A path to machining and other manufacturing skills has become important as a shortage of skilled workers looms.

   A 2011 survey from the Manufacturing Institute showed more than 80 percent of companies nationwide reported moderate to severe shortages in machinists and technicians. That shortage looks a lot worse considering a lot of those skilled machinists are baby boomers heading into retirement.

   Hundreds of people are already in these trades in Alamance County. GKN Driveline alone employs about 250 machinists.

   The flow of traditional community college graduates is just not enough to replace all those expected to retire in the next 10 to 20 years.

   This is called the skills gap, which is related to something called the interest gap. Perceptions about manufacturing being dirty, unpleasant and a dying industry in America have steered a generation away from the trades. Manufacturing is now high-tech and there is growing demand for domestic work.

   Work done overseas used to cost about a third of what it did in the United States. Now, it is about half the cost or more. Combine that with the time it takes to get parts from across the Pacific Ocean, and domestic production looks a lot better. And there are quality issues with imports.

   This is not a replacement for the textile industry. Hundreds of machinist jobs are opening in the state every year, not thousands. But they pay well — as much as $40,000 per year to start — without a four-year degree, and some local employers say these could be lifelong careers.