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McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline: MTCC Partners to Build Workforce Talent

McDowell Technical Community College is dedicated to supporting regional workforce development. The newly-branded McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline, in cooperation with ApprenticeshipNC, is dedicated to ensuring the region has innovative, relevant, effective, and efficient workforce development system that develops adaptable, work ready, skilled talent to meet the current and future needs of workers and businesses to achieve and sustain economic prosperity.

McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline: MTCC Partners to Build Workforce Talent

“We aim for everyone who comes through our doors to be successful,” said Dr. Brian Merritt. “It is important to recognize the privilege that many of us have. It is easy to take technology for granted because it is so prevalent today, but everyone does not have a laptop at home to complete assignments, parti

“There are many different types of apprenticeships, and they vary in length, level of education required and level of time and financial commitment required on the part of an employer. However, what they all have in common is providing a clearly defined path to work, earn money and make progress toward becoming a journeyman or master of a particular occupation, “said Stacy Buff, Dean of Career and Technical Education at McDowell Technical Community College.

Apprenticeships involve some level of formal education at the community college level to make certain that apprentices have the knowledge and technical abilities to be competent in their chosen professions, as well as the hands-on skills training they receive at both the college and on-the-job with employers. In cooperation with McDowell County Schools, MTCC also sets up seamless pathways for students who participate in pre-apprenticeship programs in high school to earn college credit and then make the transition into a full apprenticeship program while earning a college degree.

“McDowell Tech is committed to partnering to meet the needs of both students, or apprentices, and employers, or master craftsmen/women, and growing the local apprenticeship program at MTCC,” said Buff. In recognition of the economic impact of the apprenticeship program on local workforce development, the college is highlighting the role of apprenticeship programs at McDowell Tech, as well as the growth of employers participating in the program, during the week of November 15-21, which has been designated by the U.S. Department of Labor as National Apprenticeship Week in the United States.

Since the reorganization of the apprenticeship program under the NC Community College System in 2016, the number of individuals training in various skilled employment tracts has more than doubled and grew 37% in just one year from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, 15,657 individuals in North Carolina participated in apprenticeship programs. The high rate of growth is largely a reflection of increasing industry demands for skilled employees and the realization that nationally-recognized, Registered Apprenticeship programs are a strong and viable solution to meeting those needs.

At McDowell Tech, six local industries are currently participating in the program, and the college is working to increase employer participation each semester:

  • ABB
  • Baxter
  • Columbia Forest Products
  • Continental
  • Morris Heating and Cooling
  • WestRock

According to recent statewide surveys, these employers benefit from not only finding and developing qualified employees for critical, skilled, in-demand jobs, but also benefit from increased productivity, employee retention and skills flexibility among apprentices.

For apprentices, the benefits are even greater. Currently grants and federal or state funding is available to pay for tuition for students in the apprenticeship program, and at times when those funding sources aren’t available, employers pick up tuition costs. Secondly, students receive generous salary packages from their employees. In North Carolina as a whole, the average annual wage of an apprentice at any level of experience is $34,000 in manufacturing programs, $36,900 in construction programs, and $39,100 in other areas. In addition, some employers also cover benefits packages for their employees. Third, students may earn certificates, diplomas or associate degrees while they participate in these programs. Finally, when they complete the program, registered apprentices earn state and/or federal certificates or other credentials signifying their knowledge and skills in a particular profession.

All McDowell Tech curriculum students are eligible to participate in defined apprenticeship programs. Because McDowell Tech is an approved provider of apprenticeships through the U.S. Department of Labor, veterans are also eligible to participate in these programs, and can continue to receive G.I. Bill benefits until they complete the program or their benefits are depleted, whichever comes first.

Students, potential students and employers who are interested in participating in an apprenticeship program at McDowell Tech may contact Rob Flannery, Work-Based Learning Coordinator, at 828-652-0657 or by emailing him at [email protected] .

“Expanding the pipeline of workers regionally takes meaningful partnerships,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President, “Our McDowell Apprenticeship Pipeline will open the door to so many more in our region to earn wages while gaining new skills and credentials that lead to good careers.

When students at McDowell Tech decide to enter an apprenticeship program with an employer, the college, students and employers enter into a formal agreement regarding apprenticeship requirements and expectations. Here, Stacy Buff, Dean of Career and Technical Education; Rob Flannery, Department Chair; Tyler Rector, student; Jake Sheehan, student; Chris Suttle, student; William Morris, MTCC Instructor and owner, Morris Heating and Cooling; and Dr. Penny Cross, Vice-President of Learning and Student Services gather during one recent event where Rector, Sheehan and Suttle formally signed to become apprentices of Morris Heating and Cooling. Student Cristian Rangel, not pictured, is also an apprentice with the company.
Julie Padgett Buchanan

Keeping the Faith

A sweet and loving child of God returned to her heavenly father in the still and quiet of a bitterly-cold January morning earlier this week. Julie Buchanan, better known to most of her McDowell Tech family as Julie Padgett, ended her battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, on Wednesday, just a little more than 21 months after she was officially diagnosed with the disease.

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