McDowell Technical Community College (MTCC) has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) in the amount of $691,420 to increase workforce training opportunities and diversify the regional economy. This grant was funded by the American Rescue Plan and EDA’s $300 million Coal Communities Commitment.
This is why the newly-introduced McDowell Apprenticeship Program (MAP) now exists.
Employers are invited to Business Apprenticeship Day at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 30. During the session, employers will learn more about the advantages and requirements for developing or growing existing apprenticeship programs. Grant funding is now available to assist employers in developing these programs and to pay for a portion of student salaries during their apprenticeship programs. Stacy Buff, Associate Vice-President for Workforce Development at McDowell Tech, will lead the program along with MTCC’s Work-based Learning Coordinator, Thomas Champ. Charlie Milling from ApprenticeshipNC will also be present to answer questions about the program.
For example, currently there is a statewide financial incentive for eligible employers starting or growing apprenticeship programs. Certain employers can be eligible for $2,000 reimbursement per eligible apprentice they hire over the next year or so, as well as 50% wage reimbursement of up to $15 per hour during the first year of employment.
Employers of all sizes can build a talent pipeline that fits their workforce needs. And apprentices can earn progressive wages while learning valuable skills and obtaining nationally-recognized credentials.
Here is one recent apprenticeship success story experienced by Baxter in partnership with McDowell Tech.
Meet Apprentice Success Story – Jonathan Braswell, Baxter Healthcare
Jonathan Braswell is the perfect example of an apprenticeship success story. Braswell, an adjunct instructor for McDowell Tech and a full-time Maintenance Technician at Baxter Healthcare began his professional career in Maintenance about five years ago when he enrolled in a McDowell Tech apprenticeship program sponsored by his employer.
Braswell had been a “material handler” at Baxter since 2011 when an opportunity opened for him to apply for the company’s apprenticeship program. When he was accepted and became a “maintenance apprentice,” Baxter not only paid for all of his required technical classes at McDowell Tech, they paid his salary for both work hours at Baxter, as well as his classroom hours on-campus at the college.
While Baxter gained the benefit of an employee with increasingly sophisticated skill set in maintenance, Braswell himself benefitted in multiple ways, including financially. Because he continued to work full-time during the training program, he often averaged 24 hours or more of overtime each week at an apprentice pay scale, more than he was making as a material handler. He continued to receive all standard Baxter employee benefits.
“It was not easy,” he said. “I really had to focus. High school classes and college classes were very different, and I wasn’t a particularly good high school student. But I would not change a thing if I had to do it over. The apprenticeship program at Baxter is absolutely one of the best things to get into, and I am glad I did it. They worked my work schedule around my college education, instead of the other way around. They paid for most all of my classes, all but one psychology class, if I remember correctly.”
In 2020, Braswell graduated from McDowell Tech with an Associate Degree in Industrial Systems Technology, and earlier this year, he became certified to teach through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Braswell was an exceptional student and he went straight into a technician slot at Baxter when he completed his apprenticeship and graduated with honors from McDowell Tech. Normally, apprentices start as a “B-4 Mechanic” after completing an apprenticeship, a level slightly lower than “Technician.”
This fall, Braswell, the son/stepson of Sue and Jimmy Parker, will be teaching Mechatronics part-time for McDowell Tech at the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center. “If I had any advice I would give to students, it is to be ready to accept that some people may do things differently than you. Learn from their experiences and knowledge. Don’t have an, ‘I know attitude.’ Accept instruction; you will benefit from it.”
“I learned a lot as an apprentice, more than I thought I would, in fact. Until I got into it, I didn’t realize how much there was to it. But then it all started to fall into place.”
“Adam Aldridge, one of my supervisors, was an excellent instructor, leader and supervisor. He made the entire apprenticeship experience a positive one,” said Braswell.
In assisting employers in creating new apprenticeship opportunities for students, MTCC’s Associate VP of Workforce Development, Stacy Buff, hopes to use people like Adam and employers like Baxter as models of how to create successful apprenticeships that maximize workforce development opportunities for themselves and their employees.
“We invite any employers interested in learning about the McDowell Apprenticeship Program to visit with us on August 30 at 5:30 pm in the William Harold Smith Building to discuss how they can take advantage of the financial incentives for apprenticeships and how we can work together build a skilled workforce that meets their needs,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President.
For questions about Business Apprenticeship Day, call or email Thomas Champ, the college’s Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship Coordinator. He can be reached at 828-659-0454 or [email protected].