Apprenticeships help companies nurture skilled workforce

U.S. companies should celebrate the nation's last five years of economic growth, but they're going to need a lot more skilled workers to keep the party going, according to Thomas Malott, president and ceo, Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. (Alpharetta, Ga.).Mr. Malott says nine of 10 U.S. manufacturers surveyed recently lack qualified high-skill workers, and the U.


U.S. companies should celebrate the nation's last five years of economic growth, but they're going to need a lot more skilled workers to keep the party going, according to Thomas Malott, president and ceo, Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. (Alpharetta, Ga.).

Mr. Malott says nine of 10 U.S. manufacturers surveyed recently lack qualified high-skill workers, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 1.3 million more high-tech job openings will be created during the next 10 years. "If solutions are not found, it will become increasingly difficult for technology-driven companies to meet production goals in the U.S.," he says.

Because the U.S. educational system doesn't instill many of the skills required, Mr. Malott suggests manufacturers establish more company-administered apprenticeship programs to train technically proficient employees they'll need to fulfill commitments to their customers. Mr. Malott says Siemens' longstanding corporate program "bridges the education gap" created when noncollege-bound students are given only minimum academic background in English and math.

"Siemens has long recognized its employees as human capital assets, not something to be expensed. We invest in individuals 'up front' in anticipation of ultimately deriving productivity and benefits from our employees," says Mr. Malott.

A Siemens solution

Siemens' current domestic apprenticeship program is based on its parent company's 100-year-old solution for funneling people from school to skilled jobs in industry. About 40% of managers at Siemens, including Albert Hoser, president and ceo of Siemens Corp., are former apprentices.

Siemens has 13,000 apprentices in 20 countries, including 25 separate training programs at 13 U.S. sites. These are located in California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida.

Structured around basic educational needs, Siemens' youth and adult apprenticeship programs provide specific work-related skills, hands-on training, and/or community college work-based learning or advanced manufacturing training. After completing their studies, Siemens' U.S. apprentices have equaled or surpassed the test scores of their international colleagues, Mr. Malott reports.

He also says that payback from Siemens' current apprenticeship programs has been immediate. "Apprentice-trained workers achieved a 42% productivity increase and 70% fewer product defects than their untrained counterparts for a total savings of more than $458,000," he adds. "Not bad for a training investment of only $30,000. If only I could find a stock broker who could bring me those kind of returns on my own investments."

Students, adult apprentices secure essential skills

Scattered nationwide, Siemens' U.S. apprenticeship programs train students and adults in numerous technical disciplines. These programs include:

The Youth Apprentice model at its Lake Mary, Fla., facility uses a classic German approach to train high school and junior college students part-time in practical manufacturing, service activities, electronics, and telecommunications. Apprentices spend 20 hours per week in community college classes and 20 hours per week in work-based learning;

Also at Lake Mary, Siemens trains four- and five-year employees to be quality control technicians and floor supervisors. These jobs have been hard to fill and require staffers who know the technology and the company culture, and can direct people;

The Adult Apprentice model at the Franklin, Ky., facility gives adult workers new skills in precision tool-and-die-making. Designed for high school and GED grads, the program offers full-time training in factory-based practical and theoretical learning activities.

The Upgrade Adult Apprentice model at the Wendell, N.C., facility helps 36- to 47-year-old workers enhance manufacturing skills. Adults and high schoolers in Siemens' school-to-work program learn in a factory-training facility at East Wake High School.

Osram Sylvania (Danvers, Mass.) a Siemens company, has more than 100 apprentices enrolled at 10 U.S. locations. These programs provide training in six key areas, including tool-and-die making.

Seniors from Sequoia High School train at Siemens Business Communication Systems (Santa Clara, Calif.) for six hours per week. After a year, they study at Mission College, where they earn college credits while working part-time at Siemens.

At the company's U.S. headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., high school students in the 10th grade and up train in another program that combines high school studies with hands-on, technical training in manufacturing or industrial electronics.

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