Like manufacturers throughout the United States, Re: Build Composite Resources of Rock Hill, SC, faces an all-too-familiar problem: how to find the skilled manufacturing talent it requires in a specialized industry.
This skills gap in American manufacturing has been well-documented. According to a study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, as many as 2.1 million U.S. manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030 because, among other reasons, the mass retirement of Baby Boomers combined with the adoption of new technologies. This dire predicament could cost the industry a whopping $1 trillion— in 2030 alone, according to the study.
Increasingly, manufacturers are turning to the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center’s Apprenticeship Works, the National Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship Partnership, to tackle their workforce challenges. Apprenticeship Works helps manufacturers develop apprenticeship programs in 23 advanced manufacturing occupations – including composites technician – and has assisted companies in 21 states.
Re: Build Composite Resources – which develops and manufactures high-performance advanced thermoset and thermoplastic composite structures and integrated assemblies for customers in the aerospace and defense industries, among others – recently became the first company to take advantage of the composites technician apprentice offered by Apprenticeship Works. Developed by the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center (MAMC) and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), the apprenticeship model is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), meaning it is industry vetted and government approved.
“The apprenticeship model allows companies to provide employees with a structured training program that leads to competency and career progression,” said Joannie Harmon, IACMI vice president for workforce development. “This is a win for the organization and a win for the individual. The company gains production capacity and the individual gains skills and credentials. The advanced composites industry lacked this type of development option so IACMI, along with input from its members, collaborated with Apprenticeship Works to develop a registered apprenticeship program for advanced composites. This has been a tremendous asset to our members and the industry.”
Ryan Meadows, talent program manager for Re: Build, said it was difficult to identify a partner knowledgeable about composites apprenticeships. Then a colleague told her about Apprenticeship Works.
“We chose Apprenticeship Works through the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center because it has a great reputation in the field and partnered with IACMI and others to build the curriculum,” Meadows explained.
Eight Re: Build Composite Resources employees currently are enrolled in the composites technician apprenticeship. The program allows the company to upskill existing employees, preserve the knowledge of highly skilled workers and provides a pathway for employee advancement. “It is important to us that we offer apprenticeship programs and STEM education, provide forums for team members to share their knowledge and value continuous improvement in all aspects of what we do,” Meadows said.
She expects not only to add additional composite technician apprentices through Apprenticeship Works, but also apprenticeships in other manufacturing occupations. “It has been a beneficial partnership in building the Composites Technician Apprenticeship at Re: Build Composite Resources, and we look forward to continuing our collaborative work.”
MAMC staff members help companies such as Re: Build Composite Resources register their apprentices with the DOL and handle record-keeping and reporting. They also provide train-the-trainer services – if needed, a framework for delivery of on-the-job training and access to supplemental online instruction. All costs are covered by Apprenticeship Works through a $4.5 million grant from the DOL.
“The great thing about Apprenticeship Works is that our apprenticeship model for each occupation was created based on skill sets industry representatives across the country told us they require,” said Carol Howerton, MAMC director of workforce programs. “In addition, we know there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why we help manufacturers tailor apprenticeship programs to meet their specific operational needs.”
To learn more about Apprenticeship Works, visit www.mfg.marshall.edu/apprenticeships or contact Howerton at 304-781-1680 or .
Sept. 28, 2023