Sullivan-based Aerofil Technology Inc. competes on the global market, and maintaining a developed workforce is crucial to keeping up with demand.
“The industry keeps changing, and we have to change with it. You have to keep getting better as a company, and training employees is a part of that,” said Aerofil CEO Bob Dunaway.
The company reached out to East Central College in Union for help.
“East Central College is proud to be the workforce training provider for the area,” said President Dr. Jon Bauer, “and we credit Aerofil for dedicating its time and resources to its employees. It makes the workforce stronger, and it makes the local economy stronger.”
East Central College instructors are currently delivering training to Aerofil employees in manufacturing maintenance and logistics at the Aerofil facility. It’s being made possible through a U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship grant – tasking institutions to design programs to help close the skills gap in their area.
“Our country faces a chronic shortage of skilled laborers,” said HBM Holdings CEO Mike DeCola. The company recently acquired Aerofil. “We have to close that gap. As employers, it is our responsibility to train our workers, and no one is training employees better than Aerofil and East Central College.”
More than 100 registered apprenticeships are being created through the partnership, and it’s getting noticed at the national level.
“Not only is East Central College a leader in Missouri, but no other community college in the United States provides more registered apprenticeships than they do,” said Neil Perry, Missouri State Director of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Missouri now ranks third in the country in registered apprenticeships. “Community colleges like East Central College are a big part of the reason why,” said Perry.
After completion of an apprenticeship, Aerofil employees will receive a Certificate of Specialization in Industrial Maintenance Technology and will receive industry credentials. “East Central College figured out how to make this partnership work,” said Dunaway. “So far, it has been fantastic.”
East Central College’s Center for Workforce Development (CWD) launched the program with Aerofil in April 2017. In addition to 31 credit hours, the program also consists of 3,900 hours of structured, on-the-job training. CWD spent nearly two years researching and designing the apprenticeship program before its launch.
“This is a great example of collaboration and innovation,” said Dr. Bauer. “Many departments at East Central College came together to deliver programming that specifically meet the needs of Aerofil.”
It is being fully funded by the DOL grant program and Aerofil at no cost to the student. The funds are paying all costs for industry credentials, program administration, tuition, fees, books, supplies and apprentice wages.
“These types of partnerships don’t happen in a vacuum. They don’t happen overnight. Hard work got us here, and hard work will keep this partnership strong,” said Missouri Director of Workforce Development Mardy Leathers.
The grant program was originally scheduled to expire in April 2018. Due to the success of the program, it has been extended an additional year. “Programs such as this will give more businesses the chance to work with colleges like East Central to train their employees for the future,” explained Leathers.
The event coincided with National Apprenticeship Week – a national celebration that offers leaders in business, labor, education, and other critical partners a chance to express their support for Apprenticeship.