Mineral Area College announced its designation as a registered entity of apprenticeship programs for multiple occupations at a presentation held Wednesday afternoon at a partnering Park Hills business.

Thanks to a $67,000 grant from the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, part of the state’s Apprenticeship USA grant, MAC can now sponsor registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) and it has begun doing so this week with two southeast Missouri businesses — Lee Mechanical in Park Hills and Mondi in Jackson.

Bev Hickam, MAC’s director of workforce development, said RAPs are a unique partnership between a business and, often, an educational entity like a community college or technical college. Participants in the apprenticeship program usually get on-the-job training and college credit simultaneously.

In Lee Mechanical’s case, the grant is helping the full-service mechanical contractor secure a registered apprenticeship program for the position “combination welder.”

“We knew Lee Mechanical faced a skills gap with regards to hiring experienced welders, and they needed additional welding skills for their current workforce,” Hickam said. “A registered apprenticeship will provide Lee Mechanical with a structured training program for new hires and incumbent workers who need to ‘skill up.’ Lee Mechanical will provide the hands-on skills training and MAC will provide part of the classroom training.

"MAC began working with Lee Mechanical a few months ago on the Standards of Apprenticeship for the 'combination welder' post and began putting together some on-the-job training, competencies, curriculum and classes, along with the combination of some classes over at the college, too."

According to Hickam, the community college also helped Lee Mechanical recruit applicants, maintain apprenticeship records and served as intermediary with other state and federal agencies.

Aaron Willard, training director for Lee Mechanical, said he’s looking forward to seeing how the apprenticeship program develops.

"The combination welder apprenticeship program is going to be a three-year program," he said. "It is a hybrid program between on-the-job training and classroom training. It will basically take a person who is wanting to get into the welding trade, be it somebody who is looking for a position or somebody already with the company that is doing labor work or another skill set without welding that wants to get into it.

"It will give them the opportunity to get hands-on experience, learn the skill set over this three-year period of time. It will also be a dual benefit for us in the community because the area is lacking skilled trade help. It's very evident, not only in welding, but with other skill trades.

“As generations age and retire, succession plans are part of any thriving company’s strategy. We have good-paying jobs but they require skill, a willingness to learn and adapt, and experience. The apprenticeship programs will complement the training programs we already have in place, but MAC’s partnership will mean a lot in terms of helping us recruit and train talent.”

Hickam said Lee Mechanical’s apprenticeship program is a three-year program. Participants enrolled in the program will get a minimum of 5,000 structured on-the-job training hours, 241 hours of related classroom instruction, 15 college credit hours, industry recognized credentials and pay increases based on their progression through the program. Completion results in a Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Certificate.

Career & Technical Education Dean Roger McMillian said the college is excited to be able to serve area employers by sponsoring registered apprenticeship programs.

“We look forward to working with additional employers who wish to establish registered apprenticeships within their companies,” he said.

In addition to Lee Mechanical’s RAP, two more have been developed in partnership with Mondi Jackson, a flexible packaging manufacturer located in Jackson.

The college’s workforce development department promotes economic opportunities and focuses on developing a skilled workforce for the region. Contact Bev Hickam, 573-518-2182 or bhickam@MineralArea.edu, for more information.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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