Company Partners with PLTW School to Develop Engineering Apprenticeship

Arconic’s HR Manager Janelle Moll and HR Generalist Andrea Barrett oversee the company’s new apprenticeship program. Arconic, a $13 billion global company formerly known as Remmele Engineering, manufactures aerospace and defense, radar, fluid management, space, and missile systems and is a PLTW Engaged Partner.

Two years ago, Arconic’s Big Lake, Minnesota, plant partnered with Big Lake High School (BLHS) to expose students to manufacturing careers. The partnership began as an opportunity for students and teachers to tour the plant – one of our three Minnesota facilities – and understand how what they learn in the classroom connects to the real-world of industry. It evolved into a new apprenticeship program that launched this school year.

In our Minnesota facilities, we employ approximately 265 highly technical, skilled employees, with 130 of those employees working in our Big Lake plant. These positions include machinists, deburrs (smooth the rough edges of the machined part), and assemblers who manufacture mid- to large-sized parts, mostly out of aluminum, for military and aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEM). Through this apprenticeship program, we hope to expose high school students to these types of careers available at Arconic and other manufacturing facilities.

Developing the apprenticeship program has not been as daunting as some people might think. The partnership with BLHS has been pivotal in providing direction as we developed the apprenticeship program. We looked at many different pathways with BLHS and reviewed other apprenticeship training plans that they had available to them. The school ultimately chose the PLTW National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards as the guidelines for this apprenticeship position. Our company’s leadership team then met to determine the actions and outcomes related to each department.

For this first year, we currently host one Engineering Assistant apprentice. The apprenticeship will last eight months, during which time the apprentice will move through each department in our plant – engineering, quality, maintenance, deburr, assembly, and machining. After successfully completing the apprenticeship, the apprentice will earn the Engineering Assistant PLTW Apprentice certification through the Minnesota Department of Education.

For this pilot year of the apprenticeship program, we have discussed a need for flexibility with the school, the student, and our company’s leadership. We know that we may need to make changes throughout the year to ensure the student gets the most out of the program.

Our apprenticeship program is a tremendous opportunity to expose high school students to a variety of careers, in particular careers that do not require a four-year degree. The students could also have an opportunity for immediate full-time employment at the conclusion of the apprenticeship, which comes with a generous pay and benefits package, including 100 percent tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing continuing education. As we grow our apprenticeship program over the years to include more apprentice positions each year, we will not only impact more students but also increase the pool of highly qualified future employees prepared for the jobs we most need to fill.

Apprenticeship opportunities offer schools and districts another way to extend career and technical education beyond the classroom and empower students to gain real-world industry experience. PLTW welcomes partners to engage in immersive student experiences through apprenticeship programs. To support these efforts, PLTW serves as a resource to help connect and educate partners about the possibilities with these programs, which introduce students to high-demand job opportunities; link employers to PLTW students who have the knowledge and skills to fill their labor needs; and facilitate collaboration among PLTW schools, PLTW students, and business partners. In 2018, PLTW and the U.S. Department of Labor partnered to develop the PLTW National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards. These guidelines provide a comprehensive apprenticeship skills and knowledge framework that schools and industry can customize to meet local apprenticeship needs. To learn more or get started on developing your school or company’s apprenticeship program, complete this form.

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