The week of Nov. 13 -19 is designated as National Apprenticeship Week by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), showcasing a proven and industry-driven model that paves the way for rewarding careers. While historically apprenticeships have been associated with trade professions, currently more than 1,000 occupations have been approved for registered apprenticeship by the DOL.
Currently, Macomb Community College provides education to approximately 700 apprentices employed by more than 100 companies in the engineering and advanced technology sector as well as in health care. Apprenticeship provides an opportunity for individuals to earn a good wage while they learn, with students working for their sponsoring company and getting real-world experience while completing coursework at Macomb.
“An apprenticeship gives the student the opportunity to really take classroom knowledge and apply it on the job right away with the support and guidance of a mentor who is in the same discipline,” said Amy Jury, apprenticeship navigator, Health and Human Services at Macomb. “It’s a unique opportunity because they’re gaining valuable skill sets while they are earning a paycheck.”
For employers, apprenticeship is a strategic workforce development strategy, helping attract and retain qualified employees. There are two types of apprenticeships, registered and in-house. Registered apprenticeships are coordinated through the DOL Office of Apprenticeship and receive guidance on the type and content of on-the-job training. On completion of a registered apprenticeship, the trainee receives a certificate of completion, sometimes referred to as a journeyperson’s card, attesting to proficiency in their field. On completion of their educational requirements, they may also receive a certificate of completion from Macomb, depending on the program. In-house apprenticeships, while not governed by the DOL, can provide the same level of training and education, and be affiliated with a local college.
While an apprenticeship program helps employers attract and retain qualified employees, reducing recruitment and training costs, it can also increase job satisfaction and reduces employee turnover.
“I definitely think it helps with retention. Our current employees have proven that to us,” said Heather Dombrowski, executive manager, Drake Enterprises. “They are learning different things that is allowing them to be advanced operators, and I think it has increased their enjoyment on the job and excitement to learn more.”
Apprenticeships in engineering and advanced technology
Macomb’s Applied Technology and Apprenticeship Department has been coordinating apprenticeships with local manufacturers since 1963.
“The department was really created to give local employers, specifically the Big Three automakers and their suppliers at the time, a place to send their apprentices for the related instruction component of their apprenticeships,” said Victoria Gordon, apprenticeship coordinator, Engineering and Advanced Technology at Macomb.
Engineering and advanced technology apprenticeships are primarily focused on advanced manufacturing including but not limited to industrial maintenance mechanic; CNC machinist; tool and die maker; millwright; electrician; and pipefitter.
There are two distinct routes to become an apprentice at Macomb, either locate an employer looking to hire an apprentice position and apply through the company or participate in Macomb’s MAP+ pre-apprenticeship program.
Sam Bernard, 33, of Macomb County, had only been at Drake Enterprises for a year when his supervisor approached him about an apprenticeship. He responded immediately with a “yes.” Two weeks later he met with the plant manager, who gave him the run down on their apprenticeship program.
“Taking these classes, I can learn things that I can apply on the shop floor now,” said Bernard, who is working toward a certificate as a CNC operator. “The manufacturing industry is continuously growing, and there’s always something new going on. So why not go ahead and educate yourself so you can grow with the industry?”
After receiving his certificate of completion from Macomb and his journeyperson’s card from the DOL, Sam plans to continue working at Drake Enterprises with the hopes of becoming a supervisor. He already has his eye on a new apprenticeship at Drake for a set-up technician position, which he believes would make him a more well-rounded employee.
The second route to apprenticeship in the engineering and technology area at Macomb, MAP+, offers an opportunity focused in either construction or manufacturing. The program consists of four classes, which are taken together in a single semester. On completion, the student earns nine credits and attends a networking event with employers who have openings for apprentices. For more information about MAP+ or an application, email Carol Hensler-Smith at email@example.com.
Health care apprenticeships
While apprenticeship is well known in the skilled trades and manufacturing sectors, the model is not common in the health care sector. Macomb’s health care apprenticeship initiative, begun in September 2022, is designed to create a pathway to opportunity and sustainability both for individuals and area health care organizations.
“We are a large enough organization that we can utilize our current employees and their skill sets to help educate and train apprentices within our offices,” said Erin DeChambeau, director, Human Resources, Cornerstone Medical Group. “The apprenticeship helps them have a better education when they are able to apply it hands-on at the same time that they’re learning it.”
Aisa Pisha, 34, of Macomb Township, a medical assistant apprentice at Cornerstone Medical and a student at Macomb, started her apprenticeship in March.
“When I first started, I was very self-conscious and struggled with my ability to communicate,” said Pisha. “At first, I struggled and said, ‘I can’t do this.’ But, because of the support I received through the apprenticeship, it really helped me be successful.”
“The apprentice program linked me up with a good employer that after I graduate, I’m already employed,” said Pisha. “I’m already ahead.”
Apprenticeships are available in both patient-centered and business-oriented healthcare fields:
·Certified medical reimbursement specialist: Handles claims management and medical billing
·Certified professional coder: Updates patient records with standardized information needed for data management and billing purposes
·Behavioral health technician: Assist a board-certified behavior analyst in helping clients modify behaviors that interfere with their ability to concentrate, communicate and socially interact with others.
·Certified nursing assistant: Under the direction of a nurse, monitors patients’ vitals, assists patients in daily living activities and ensures patients are safe and comfortable
·Dental assistant: Takes vitals, reviews patient histories, prepares patients for treatment, assists dental hygienists and dentists, sterilizes instruments
·Laboratory assistant: Assists medical lab professionals in processing clinical specimens for distribution
·Medical assistant: Assists in administrative and clinical duties in medical offices and clinics
·Pharmacy technician: Compounds drugs, dispenses medication, prepares or mixes intravenous drugs, transfers prescriptions
·Phlebotomy: Draws blood from patients and prepares the samples for testing
For more information about Macomb’s healthcare apprenticeships, visit www.macomb.edu and search for health care apprenticeships.