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Season 1 Episode 5 - Upskilling Your Manufacturing Workforce with Apprenticeships

Posted by Rachel Miller


Episode Show Notes

In this episode, Gregg is joined by Jose Anaya, who oversees the Community Advancement Division and Business Training Center at El Camino College, and Tiffany Miller, the Dean of Apprenticeships at West Los Angeles College. Together, they discuss the practical steps of setting up apprenticeship programs that enable SMMs to find, train, and keep highly-skilled manufacturing workers. 

Jose Anaya oversees the El Camino College’s Community Advancement Division and Business Training Center. The Division is part of the College’s efforts to advance local economic growth through quality educational programs and services. In his role, Mr. Anaya assists the college and its various advisories, consortia, and networks to align college educational programs and workforce development resources under the overarching goals of continuous workforce improvement, technology deployment, and business development. His background experience includes work in the private sector with corporations such as Honeywell, ITT Industries, and DataCard. Prior to joining El Camino College, he directed economic development programs at Cerritos College and received numerous honors and recognition related to workforce development. 

Tiffany Miller is Dean of Apprenticeships at West Los Angeles College, managing over 12 million dollars of grants committed to helping employers and the workforce. Before working at West Los Angeles College, Tiffany was the Program Director for Career Pathways at El Camino College where she designed comprehensive programs for secondary students, college students, and community members looking for employment or transfer opportunities in high demand, skilled careers. Prior to El Camino College, Tiffany worked at various nonprofit organizations throughout Los Angeles, assisting youth and young adults with obtaining access to education, vocational training, work experience, and leadership development. Outside of work, Tiffany can be found playing euro-style worker placement board games, reading science fiction, and playing hide and seek with her three children.


00:00:00 – Introductions

00:02:39 - New challenges for finding skilled workforce

00:03:48 - Effect of no vocational training in high schools on pipeline of talent for manufacturing

00:06:35 - Definition of upskilling

00:08:03 - Examples of how to upskill a CNC operator who has been working in the field 20 years

00:10:05 - More interest in upskilling by manufacturers

00:11:59 - Advantages and expectations of upskilling

00:14:17 - Upskilling advantages over traditional learning methods

00:18:04 - Steps needed by manufacturer to embark on apprenticeship program

00:22:46 - How to encourage buy-in of both the apprentice and mentor

00:26:40 - Expected results of apprenticeship program and length of time before realized

00:28:07 - Process and timeline of starting an apprenticeship program

00:32:05 - Summary


Gregg Profozich [00:00:02] In the world of manufacturing, change is the only constant. How are small- and medium-sized manufacturers, SMMs, to keep up with new technologies, regulations, and other important shifts, let alone leverage them to become leaders in their industries? Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC, highlights leaders in the modern world of manufacturing, from SMMs, to consultants, to industry experts. Each quarter we go deep into topics pertinent to both operating a manufacturing firm and the industry as a whole. Join us to hear about manufacturing sectors' latest trends, groundbreaking technologies, and expert insights to help SMMs in California set themselves apart in this exciting modern world of innovation and change. I'm Gregg Profozich, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at CMTC. I'd like to welcome you. In this episode, our topic is apprenticeship programs. I am joined by Jose Anaya, who oversees the community advancement division and business training center at El Camino College, and Tiffany Miller, the Dean of Apprenticeships at West Los Angeles College. Together, they discuss the practical steps of setting up apprenticeship programs that enable SMMs to find, train, and keep highly skilled manufacturing workers. Welcome. Glad to have you here today. 

Jose Anaya [00:01:15] Thank you.

Tiffany Miller [00:01:15] Thank you.

Gregg Profozich [00:01:16] So, tell us a little bit about your programs that you're involved with in workforce at both of your institutions.

Jose Anaya [00:01:21] So, I'm in charge of all our workforce and economic development programs, including apprenticeships. So, we work with manufacturers to, basically, develop programs that develop a pipeline of workers or talent to their factory. So, we're working with a lot of aerospace companies, specifically around machining, electronics, and electromechanical occupations, where we actually prepare students to go into their factories, their apprenticeship programs. We also have customized training, where we develop their existing workforce or upskill them to current technologies and skill sets.

Tiffany Miller [00:02:04] West Valley College has similar programs, as Jose mentioned at El Camino. We have received a number of grants, both from the California Workforce Economic Development Board and the Department of Labor, to work on creating talent pipelines and employee development and training programs for employers in the advanced manufacturing sector and other high demand sectors. Our training programs include for-credit classes, customized training that can take place internally at companies and reaching out to special populations to train them for very specific jobs.

Gregg Profozich [00:02:39] Thank you, Tiffany. Thank you, Jose. So, we're here today to talk about apprenticeships for upskilling in manufacturing and, really, to set the context there. Let's talk about what the challenges are for manufacturers in finding skilled workforce now. What are some of the things that manufacturers are dealing with now that you didn't deal with 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 40 years ago? Jose.

Jose Anaya [00:03:00] So, basically, there is a talent shortage, and the fact is that very few students in high school are being exposed to manufacturing careers. So, therefore, we don't see a whole lot of students in our manufacturing programs at the community colleges. So, when it comes to sourcing talent, manufacturers are finding a hard time finding that talent. So, we're working with manufacturers to develop those pipelines. So, we're recruiting students from high schools into our manufacturing programs and then finding them opportunities with the manufacturers we work with. We're struggling to do that, just because we're finding that very few high school students are aware of good paying jobs in manufacturing.

Gregg Profozich [00:03:48] So, Jose, you bring up a couple of good points there, and it leads to another question. When I was in high school, there was still the opportunity for votech, I could go to learn wood shop, metal shop. That opportunity didn't seem to exist as my kids went through their high school years. How has that change affected this pipeline of talent for manufacturing?

Jose Anaya [00:04:05] So, Gregg, like you, I also went through shop classes years ago, decades ago, basically. That basically created an awareness that I wanted to go into manufacturing, as a high school student, and I basically went on and pursued an engineering degree. We don't have that anymore at the high schools. Vocational programs left the high schools 20 plus years ago. So, high school students are geared up to go to college, go to a four-year institution, and not necessarily pursue occupations where they work with their hands. So, therefore, we struggle to create those opportunities, to create that awareness. So, we do have programs at the high school, but we don't reach enough of them to really fill the pipeline of talent that's needed by industry.

Tiffany Miller [00:04:55] Jose touched on awareness, and I think when we talk not just to high school students, but any type of student from a special population — high school students, adult school students, veterans who are reentering the education system — they don't know what's available to them, and they don't know all the options that are behind the big headline jobs. Everyone, when you speak about advanced manufacturing, at the end of our presentations, most any type of student will be like, "Oh, well, I want to be an engineer," and they won't know about the 30 or 40 different type of technicians that can work below an engineer and make a very good salary. So, it is that awareness piece. It's also the technical awareness piece that a lot of people have a lot of skills that would prepare them for these jobs but don't think of it as training. So, for example, a veteran may have been trained in their experience in the armed forces, and won't think that that experience translates to the workforce, and thinks they need to start over with their education. So, there's a lot of opportunities now with connecting those dots to help employers and manufacturers connect with all of these different special populations to help reinvigorate the talent pipeline on both sides, letting employers know that these special populations are there and letting special populations know these great employment opportunities are there.

Jose Anaya [00:06:13] If I could add to that, because Tiffany, basically, pointed out a very good point: these are really good paying jobs. What we're finding is students can actually spend just a few semesters at a community college, get enough skill set to actually get those really good paying jobs that can lead to a long life career opportunity for them.

Gregg Profozich [00:06:35] I think it's a really important point. I think it's really been lost. Our entire educational system seems to be geared towards secondary education, towards college preparation, and there's a big gap there. So, let's talk a little bit about where we're going here and some of the things that are happening out there. But just to set some context and make sure we're on the same definitions, you mentioned upskilling. Upskilling refers to new students coming in; upskilling refers to incumbent workers, those who have been doing the job for a while. How is that term defined in the context of our conversation today?

Jose Anaya [00:07:09] Upskilling is really taking existing employees and upskilling them. So, they learn more current skill sets needed by that employer. So, whether that employer is looking at new methodologies, new technologies, we're able to come in and upskill their talent, their existing talent. But I also want to add that what we learn with industry we're able to bring back into the classroom, to actually educate our students on the current technologies being used by industry. I just wanted to make that point, because the stuff we do with industry we're able to bring back to the classroom. So, our existing students are also currently educated on the latest technology so when they go out into the workforce, they know the latest and greatest technologies and skill sets needed by industry.

Gregg Profozich [00:08:03] So, some concrete examples of what upskilling would look like. I'm a CNC operator. Is it getting into robotics? Is it getting into 3DCAD? What are some examples of how you would upskill me if I've been running CNC machines for 20 years?

Jose Anaya [00:08:14] That's a great example. We have an employer that actually introduced robots into their shop, and many of the CNC operators were intimidated by the robots. So, we went in there and put together a training program specific for that employer to upskill the employees. After our training, they knew how to program the robots, knew how to work with them. That intimidation disappeared, because they were able to interface and use the robots as a production tool.

Gregg Profozich [00:08:52] Yeah, I think that's a great point and a great example. A lot of times you want your CNC operator with tons of skills and years of experience doing the tough jobs; you don't want him tending a machine doing a run that's going to take three days. You want him cutting steel on something that requires his constant attention. So, on those longer run jobs if he can set up a robot and have it tend the machine for him and just supervise and oversee it, that's a huge way to gain productivity. Suddenly the robot becomes an asset and another tool in my toolbox, not a threat to me. New technology doesn't have to be a threat.

Tiffany Miller [00:09:24] Yeah. I also add that we're living here in California, where our governor's office is supporting new and innovative approaches to upskilling. So, it really can be a customized definition based on the employer and what their needs are. So, we have a lot of advanced manufacturing companies that have a lot of different needs of their employees. So, upskilling in its broadest definition is just having existing employees gain additional skills so that they can be more productive and do more on the team than just one thing. They can train that in any way that they want. It can go up the career ladder; it can go across the floor to do different parts. It's dependent on what the manufacturer's needs are.

Gregg Profozich [00:10:05] So, it sounds like there's a lot of programs and support for upskilling. Is it rising in popularity? Tiffany, is this something we're seeing more interest in among small manufacturers or manufacturers in general?

Tiffany Miller [00:10:14] Yeah, I think so, but I think there's a variety of reasons for that. One is, of course, would you like your employee to have knowledge about one thing or a knowledge about four or five things? A welder who understands what happened after he welds something is a much better welder, because he knows what the person after him is inspecting. So, he will be better to do that if an engineer understands how a machinist needs to use a machine to create a tolerance. They'll create designs that are better for that design. So, I think it's picking up, because the value add is there. We're having a lot of data now that shows there's a large return on investment for workers that have been upskilled. It's also showing that retention numbers are much higher for workers that are upskilled, and that's for a variety of reasons. One is they feel supported by their employers. They feel more valuable. There are more career advancement opportunities, which ultimately result in higher salary.

Jose Anaya [00:11:10] Also, to add to that, we're seeing this digital transformation, industry 4.0 smart manufacturing. So, we're seeing a lot of manufacturers asking for those skill sets on artificial intelligence, data analytics, the opportunity to incorporate more sensors on the factory floor, get that data, contextualize that data to make smarter decisions. So, we're starting to see that a lot more in terms of manufacturers looking to upskill their talent in industry 4.0 technologies.

Gregg Profozich [00:11:45] So, we're now going more horizontal across skills, across the next operation, up the next operation, downstream, more utility flexibility, more utility players on the manufacturing floor. Is that what we're seeing out there?

Jose Anaya [00:11:56] Exactly. That's well put.

Gregg Profozich [00:11:59] Okay. So, let's go a little deeper. Tiffany, you mentioned some of the need for upskilling and some of the advantages, but let's talk about some of the specifics of that. If I'm a manufacturer and decide to make an investment of time and effort into upskilling my employees, what are some of the things I would expect to see coming back? What are the advantages to me?

Tiffany Miller [00:12:14] Well, there's a lot of advantages, depending on how you look at the situation. So, the first advantage is there's a lot of resources out there for companies that are looking to upskill employees. So, it wouldn't be 100 percent on the employer to come up with a cost plan. How are they going to offset the costs needed to train their employees? How are they going to motivate their employees to do that? There are many programs out there through the community colleges and other entities that can help support them with that. That's one thing is it brings resources into their company. The second thing is from an employee perspective, there's opportunities to advance right away. So, if you let your employees know to take advantage of an opportunity to upskill, you'll see who of your employees want to be with you for the long run, who wants to invest in their own training so that they can stay with your company. So, that's a really good employee assessment tool to see who's interested in learning more. I had mentioned the return on investment. So, each company, when they have a training and development or employee development program, can assess based on the upscaling they'd like to do. You can do your own ROI study to see what their return on investment is. For example, if you train someone, however amount of time — let's say six weeks or eight weeks before they can even touch the floor — if you upskilled an employee that was already doing it, could they hit that project in less time?

Gregg Profozich [00:13:36] All very important benefits. Jose, any others?

Jose Anaya [00:13:38] I do want to add that there are a number of benefits working with a community college to develop that training program that you need. We're doing that all the time, working with employers, developing programs to upskill them. We both do the training on-site or at the college using the latest technology. So, the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship with the community college is there. Many of the companies that we work with have been with us for 15, 20 years. We end up becoming a part of their training development program, and in some cases, we are their training department.

Gregg Profozich [00:14:17] So, I think there's probably a lot of different ways that workers can have their skills leveled up, if you will, as upskilling can happen. I can take it on myself. I can decide to take classes myself. I could read books. I could watch videos on YouTube, and there's a myriad of those out there. The employers can get involved in offering incentives. They could do it themselves within their four walls. They can reach out to a community college. A number of different methods there. Apprenticeships fit into here somehow, and I think there's two different styles of apprenticeships — independent or cooperative, cooperative being working with an educational institution, independent where an employer is doing it themselves. Upskilling through apprenticeships — why is doing it that way more advantageous than more classical learning methods?

Tiffany Miller [00:14:57] So, the definition of apprenticeship has changed dramatically over time. Traditionally when apprenticeships started, you think of the old-school model like a union and a one-size-fits-all. Everyone gets hired and everyone goes through the same training program. But apprenticeships have really changed. Now they're completely customized by each individual employer. It's customized by different occupations and different employees. Each employers that have different training and apprenticeship programs look completely different than the counterpart manufacturer up the street. They're completely customizing it to their own needs. The advantages of having an apprenticeship program in the formal sense, because many manufacturers have informal training programs, which is... An apprenticeship is just comprised of on-the-job learning and related instruction. So, most manufacturers are doing pieces of that already. The benefits of formalizing it: one is for the employee. They get a certificate. Depending on what it’s registered with, they could get two certificates, one from the Department of Labor and the Division of Apprenticeship Standards. That certificate is an industry recognized credential that can be portable to them and go with them and their work. Oftentimes employers can use that. When you see a job description and it says this type of education or equivalent, that equivalent can be an apprenticeship program for that employee. So, perhaps you have a great employee that you've always wanted to promote, but you just can't based on the minimum qualifications. Let's say that employee just doesn't have the time to go back and get a bachelor's degree, or an associate's degree, or whatever it might be. This apprenticeship program can help them move up and, in essence, help you hire them to do the job you know they can do. It's a way to formalize your own internal training program. So, that's one. The second advantage is it brings resources into the company. So, by having apprentices in manufacturing, there's certain tax breaks that are available to manufacturers based on the number of apprenticeships that they have. Then there's different organizations such as community colleges or professional associations that have grants to offset the costs of apprenticeships. Of course, the California's Employment Training Panel funds can also offset the costs of apprenticeship. So, those are a few of the advantages. 

Jose Anaya [00:17:09] So, what we find is an apprenticeship program ends up being a great tool for manufacturers to home grow their talent. We talked with a number of aerospace companies that are having a hard time finding skilled machinists. So, we're working with them to actually have them hire our students, enter an apprenticeship program, and accelerate their learning. So, by the time they're done with a two-year apprenticeship program, they've actually got the experience of a five-year machinist. So, it accelerates the learning by creating that structure of an apprenticeship.

Gregg Profozich [00:17:49] That's a pretty dramatic acceleration.

Jose Anaya [00:17:50] Yeah, because of the structure. So, what we're finding is more and more companies are embracing the apprenticeship model just because of that structure and the ability to home grow the talent that they need. 

Gregg Profozich [00:18:04] Excellent. Those are some impressive results and some impressive numbers. All the more reason to look into it and take it seriously. So, if I'm a small manufacturer, or midsize manufacturer, or large manufacturer, what steps would I need to take if I wanted to embark on an apprenticeship program to address some of my skill gap issues?

Tiffany Miller [00:18:21] The first thing you would have to ask yourself as a manufacturing company is: what are your needs? What are you hoping to get out of a structured employee development program? So, typically, a manufacturer would first have to ask themselves that, and they'd have to be interested in one of two things. One is are they interested in building a robust talent pipeline, and two is are they interested in helping their new employees onboard with training and existing employees upskill? If the answer was yes to any of those questions, then you'd want to move forward and learn more about formalizing whatever talent pipeline, training program, onboarding you'd like to have at your company. There's a number of resources out there that can help manufacturing companies with that. Community colleges are one, professional organizations. It's the climate right now that we want to be supporting our manufacturing companies, because ultimately, that supports our people getting good jobs. So, we definitely want to be doing that. So, that would be the first thing, to identify your need and then to identify who you'd want to reach out to for help. CMTC, I'm sure they can help, as well, as a first point of contact, or just your local community college, or Jose, or me. Then you just have to build out your training program. Oftentimes, you already have a semblance of what it would look like based on what you're already doing for on-the-job training and whatever formalized classroom that you already have or you want your employees to have.

Gregg Profozich [00:19:48] So, I'm not starting from scratch. I'm taking the existing pieces I have and just putting them into a more formal structure and adding in potentially some gaps and some things that get me to the certificate level at the end of the program.

Tiffany Miller [00:20:00] Right, exactly. The question sometimes is, "Well, I'm already doing this. Why put in the effort to formalize it?" Well, it's for all those advantages that we talked about before. You have an informal training program. Your employees are not getting the credentials to prove that they have completed it. You're not getting the tax benefits or the resources to offset the cost of the training that you're providing your employees. There's other ways and there's other resources out there. Like Jose mentioned, community colleges offer a number of classes. I know many employers also have tuition reimbursement programs, and they're like, "Why aren't our employees taking advantage of it?" Sometimes they just need a formalized structured program to help motivate them and make it easy and accessible for them.

Gregg Profozich [00:20:39] Yep, absolutely.

Jose Anaya [00:20:40] What I'd like to add is that apprenticeships have a bad reputation. We struggle to market apprenticeships just because of the historical profile that they've had throughout history. But once we get to a manufacturer and explaining to them this new, flexible apprenticeship model, they get it. But it's getting in the door with just the idea of an apprenticeship. That's really hard to do. So, what we find is... We typically approach manufacturers with an opportunity to develop their talent in-house utilizing a structured format, and then we introduce the idea of an apprenticeship, because if we start out with an apprenticeship, there's a lot of negative connotation just because of the old apprenticeship union base model.

Gregg Profozich [00:21:32] That's a really interesting point. Maybe it's time we took a new look at it. Apprenticeships have been around for a long time, as far back as - what? - the Middle Ages 400 or 500 years. They've definitely changed over that time, and they don't mean the same thing now as they meant back then. They don't mean the same thing now as they meant 20 years ago.

Tiffany Miller [00:21:47] I would just like to add... We've talked about a blended model a lot, where it's hiring someone, and keeping them in training, and onboarding them. There's also a model out there that can be advantageous to many manufacturers. The community colleges, or high schools, or the military, if we know the specific skill set that they want them to have classroom instruction, we can actually have them complete all those classes before they even hire them. There's so many different types of manufacturers out there. There was one employer that we worked with that made furniture for the inside of airplanes. That blew my mind, because when we put their training plan together, they're like, "Oh, they need to have a fashion class; they need to have a woodworking class; they need to have a machining class." And it's like, "Okay, well, who outside of the community college will have taken all of this wide variety of classes?" So, we were able to customize a talent pipeline for them and create a program just being like, "Hey, are you interested in building furniture for airplanes? Take these five classes, and at the completion you can get an interview with this company."

Gregg Profozich [00:22:46] Wow, that's a powerful benefit of the community colleges, the cross-functional nature of all the different disciplines that are taught. Makes a lot of sense. So, we've been talking a lot about the employer perspective, if you will, about apprenticeships and upskilling workers. Let's shift a little bit more towards the workers. I'd imagine there are some barriers there. There's some adversity to change, and some resistance, and some suspicion, and those kind of things. What are some of the things that can be done to encourage buy-in or participation, both by the apprentice and the mentor roles that would have to be leading that apprentice?

Jose Anaya [00:23:17] What we're finding with some of our employers as the baby boomers start retiring, that tribal knowledge leaves with that employee. So, what we're finding is employers will team up an apprentice with that seasoned employee that's getting ready to leave in two or three years. So, by teaming them up, you're transferring that knowledge. That seasoned employee, he is actually developing their replacement. And it's a win-win, because that employee retires knowing full well that they trained somebody to take their place. So, it's a win-win. The other thing we find, there's a lot of excitement with students going into an apprenticeship program, because they recognize that there's a pathway for them to develop themselves within the structure of an employer to continue to develop themselves and move up the career ladder, so to speak.

Tiffany Miller [00:24:16] I'll just add from the worker perspective, they're always very excited, because it means that their employer is investing in them. It means that not only do they want to hire them, they want to train them, and they think they can become more than they are. So, they're not hiring them saying, "We think you'll only do this." They're saying, "We're hiring you, and by the end of this you're going to have 2,000 hours of skills, and you'll have taken these classes." Oftentimes they partner with community colleges. "You'll have this many college units that are going to help you with this." So, I find that employees and new hires are very excited to become part of programs like this, because they're still hired by the company. They're still manufacturers' full-time employees, but then they're just hired with more support. Would you rather be an employee with little or no support or an employee with a lot of support from your employer? So, I find that they like this, and sometimes they want to do more. They're like, "I finished my apprenticeship program. Is there another one I can go into?" So, some employers, I've even built stackable apprenticeships. So, that person wants to keep developing. So, with one of our employers, we have an apprenticeship that goes all the way through a master's degree. Then the employee is like, "I can do this if I know my employer is supporting me. I want to make it all the way. I want to know that I'm a good worker and that they want me to keep learning, because they see that there's a chance that I could be the boss someday."

Jose Anaya [00:25:43] That's a really good point. So, Tiffany just reminded me of an employer we're working with, where they're actually using an apprenticeship program to take their technicians and move them into four-year degree engineering positions. So, we've developed an apprenticeship program that takes that individual through a four-year engineering program.

Gregg Profozich [00:26:06] I think, Tiffany, you hit a point that makes a lot of sense to me, anyway. Once I start an apprenticeship program, I realize I have support. Then training my employees becomes easier, because I'm not doing it alone, and I'm not distracted by the latest fire I have to fight. There's a structure, and a process, and a way to get it done consistently. All those things then get me into seeing additional benefits and values, not to mention the fact that the employee sees that I'm investing in that person and that they have a pathway in the future. So, it sounds very much like a win-win from the way both of you are describing this. 

Jose Anaya [00:26:38] Correct.

Tiffany Miller [00:26:38] Yep.

Gregg Profozich [00:26:40] Excellent. So, assuming that I started my apprenticeship program — I access the different parties that were available: community colleges, professional associations, etc. — what results should I see, and how long before I see them?

Tiffany Miller [00:26:54] You should see them right away. You should see it in the attitude and motivation of your employees who are enrolled in the apprenticeship program. You should see it in the mentors. So, employees that are mentoring the new employees, it creates a really positive work environment and culture that people that are seasoned are helping newer people learn their skills. So, there's that value of more purpose. "I'm not only building this; I'm also helping others learn to build." That could fill a lot of people's buckets. It's the return on investment. You're training your employees right away. So, you should see more productivity in your company within weeks of a training program. Now, of course, it's not going to be all perfect right away, but as you formalize it and move along, it should get better with time. Your return on investment should go up, and up, and up as the longer that you do it.

Jose Anaya [00:27:41] It's really four areas, and Tiffany covered them all, but I just wanted to reiterate, because it's important. So, the four things that they'll see: a highly skilled workforce, reduced turnover — nationally, you'll see that the retention rate for apprentices is like 92 percent — a higher productivity, and also a more diverse workforce. So, those are the four things that they'll see across the board.

Gregg Profozich [00:28:07] Apprenticeships sound like they have a lot of advantages and very few disadvantages for the average employer. What other comments would either of you like to make before we wrap this up and bring it to a close? Tiffany, I'll let you go first.

Tiffany Miller [00:28:18] Thank you. I would just like to add that there are a ton of benefits that come with apprenticeship programs and formalizing your training programs. I just want to be transparent that there is a little bit of work that needs to be put in to make them successful, but that work can be done in partnership with community colleges, professional organizations, CMTC. There are many people out there that are here to help you do it. I don't want to paint too rosy of a picture that you could say you're interested and sign up tomorrow, but it is 100 percent customized by you. You will have a lot of support with building it so that it'll be a successful model. There's been many companies that have done it really thoughtfully and purposefully, and it moves as fast as the speed of the company. So, some employers have taken two years to develop their program, and they wanted to hire a development manager to manage it. Other employers were like, "We have this need. We have four new hires. We want to get going," and they've done it within a month or so. It's just a question of what the needs of your company are and how you'd like to move forward. It does take work by the employer, just to mention the series of meetings needed just to establish a training program, go through it, really formalize it. So, some feedback that I've gotten from companies, "It seems too hard." If you sell them too quickly on how easy it is and how good it's going to be, then they realize like, "Oh, we're going to have to track on-the-job training. Someone has to supervise the apprentices." It can be jarring for them to not talk about it upfront. You have to collect data, because it's so customized, but each employer, it really depends on what their resources and bandwidth are. So, it's really hard to say, "After four hours of doing these forms you'll be done," because it really just goes back to what is their training program; how much training and on-the-job training do they already have; and what do they need to supplement where there's a skills gap; and then, do their engineers have time to look over the training plan they're putting together for their engineering technicians. That's usually the biggest... The most amount of time depends on how long it takes to formalize their training plan, and who needs to be at the table, and how many meetings need to be had. Then the infrastructure that's needed to be built to support the program, that's what can take a long time, because no one really wants to get started until they know how they're going to measure the success.

Jose Anaya [00:30:40] I think Tiffany put it really well. So, it could take two months, or it could take four years. But what we find is larger organizations take a lot longer, because they have to involve more decision makers and a series of meetings, where the smaller manufacturer is more nimble, and you're dealing with the decision maker. So, that individual makes the decision. So, when you're talking to small manufacturers, it could take two months just because they want it to happen, and they want to happen fast. It's really employer driven. Also, it's a proven solution to recruit, train, and retain highly skilled workers. That's really at the heart of an apprenticeship program.

Tiffany Miller [00:31:21] Yeah. I'll back up what Jose just said, because it reminded me. He had mentioned this before. It really is the way to bring in a diverse group of talent into your company, because it changes the idea that you can only hire people who are 100 percent proficient and a master of all the skills needed to perform the job. It allows you to tap into people that just haven't been given the opportunity to be trained. That opens up your doors to people that can come to work on time, have excellent attitude, to have a strong desire to learn who just haven't been given the opportunity. Then you can customize them to your own specific work culture and needs, and that by the end of the program, they're a master, not just in the occupation but also in what's needed for your company.

Gregg Profozich [00:32:05] Thank you, Tiffany, Jose. So, in summary, there's a big need for a workforce within manufacturing. Between the lack of vocational technical training across the years and the retiring workforce, there's a lot of technical memory that's in danger of leaving the average company. There is a big need to capture that technical memory and pass it on to the next generation of workers. So, apprenticeships seem to be a useful and advantageous vehicle to help solve some of those issues. Increases in productivity, retention, and diversity—all are things that are positive results that we can expect. I'd really like to thank you both for your time today. It's been a great conversation and a lot of real key insights. Jose, Tiffany, I'd love to have you back sometime for future conversations. Have a wonderful day.

Jose Anaya [00:32:51] Thank you so much.

Tiffany Miller [00: 32:51] Thank you.

Gregg Profozich [00:32:52] Thank you for listening to Shifting Gears — a podcast from CMTC. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and post it on your social media platforms. You can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your preferred podcast directory. For more information on our topic, please visit CMTC is a private nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, workforce development, and consulting services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the state of California. CMTC's mission is to serve as a trusted advisor, providing solutions that increase the productivity and competitiveness of California's manufacturers. CMTC operates under a cooperative agreement for the state of California with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology within the Department of Commerce. For more information about CMTC please visit For more information about the MEP National Network, or to find your local MEP center visit

Topics: Employee Training, Business Growth Strategy & Strategic Planning

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