How important is a manufacturing apprentice program?

If a manufacturing apprentice program is not one of the items on your company’s list of potential improvements, after learning about its many advantages you may wish to consider implementing one. In last week’s blog, we quoted Tooling U-SME Learning and Performance Improvement Leader (LPI) John Hindeman’s six reasons for starting a manufacturing apprentice program, as outlined in an article that appeared in the February 8, 2017 Tooling U-SME edition.

Previously, we pointed out that college and other programs of higher learning may give students a textbook education, but before they’re ready to go out in the world and earn a living, first they must acquire practical skills and workplace experience. Advanced degree or certification programs are often costly; the media is filled with stories about college graduates over their heads in student loan debt long after becoming successful well-paid professionals. For most young people with limited financial resources, on-site apprentice programs certainly seem like a preferable option.

According to Hindeman, upon discovering that apprenticeships lead to better employees, many high-performance companies implemented their own in-house manufacturing apprentice programs.

The following are the final three reasons for starting an apprentice program:

  1. It seems highly impractical to invest your time, money and energy into hiring someone who is only trained in a generic or template program taught to all students seeking employment in a specific area. One size rarely fits all. Wouldn’t it seem more sensible to customize each training at the outset by installing your own onsite apprenticeship program?

If you have a Lean company, for example, even if potential employees have learned about Lean as presented in business textbooks, they will still be unfamiliar with your company’s specific implementation of Lean’s strategies, tools and techniques. An apprentice program that introduces new employees to your company’s Lean culture while training them in job-specific tasks can save you both time and money.

  1. Another upside to apprenticeship programs are financial incentives. According to Hindeman, some states offer tax breaks to companies with established apprentice programs. In several states, employee tuition may be available as well. The federal government also subsidizes specific apprentice programs.
  2. Apprentice programs are cost-effective. According to Hindeman, “a 2014 report found that due to the skills shortage the average manufacturer can lose 11 percent of annual earnings, or $3,000 per existing employee.”[1]

If you have a Lean manufacturing company, it makes sense to take a tip from companies that have already discovered the value of installing their own apprentice programs.

About Lean Learning Center

The Lean Learning Center was founded in 2001 to address the gaps and barriers that are holding back companies from successful and sustainable lean transformation. In addition to the advanced curriculum, the Center has developed a learning environment designed specifically for adult learning utilizing techniques that include discovery simulations, case studies, personal planning, and reflection – ultimately engaging people at a deep and personal level. We bring our unique lean understanding in creative ways to executives, managers, supervisors, change agents and front-line employees.

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[1] Handeman, John. “Six Reasons to Start a Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program, Tooling U-SME, February 8, 2017.