KINGSPORT — For centuries, an apprentice trained under an expert artisan mastered the technology of the times in civilizations worldwide.
The modern apprentice reunites these processes in electromechanical technology, mechanical technology, machining, metal fabrication and more for a new generation of artisans.
Northeast State Community College and the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM) enable this ages-old tradition by offering registered apprenticeship programs to provide a structured training process using the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Standards of Apprenticeship. The DOL offers certification for more than 1,000 occupations.
As a DOL-registered apprenticeship sponsor, RCAM develops training curricula for companies of any size. This training is critical for smaller companies and entrepreneurs who might not otherwise offer or sustain an apprenticeship program for their employees.
Each employee completing a sponsored apprenticeship receives a DOL certificate of completion.
“RCAM can offer employers a turnkey structured training process using DOL standards,” RCAM Executive Director Health McMillian said. “Companies can take advantage of apprenticeship training without the burden of managing a company-sponsored program.”
McMillian said the process is straightforward. Companies simply need to contact RCAM, and the staff will guide them through becoming an Authorized Training Agent.
The RCAM sponsored its first apprenticeship program in Spring 2017 when Kingsport’s Silgan Closures entered into a registered apprenticeship program in RCAM’s mechatronics technician program.
For 2021-22, RCAM has signed agreements with Bell, Fiber Innovation Technology, ebm-papst, J.A. Street & Associates and Snap-on. These apprenticeships range from mechatronics to carpentry to metal-building construction.
“RCAM has been an excellent resource in meeting our training needs,” said David Linville, the maintenance manager at Snap-on’s Elizabethton facility. “We couldn’t ask for a more committed team to be our partner.”
Also, RCAM recently collaborated with the state of Tennessee and J.A. Street & Associates to offer a pre-apprenticeship at Tennessee High School in Bristol. The pre-apprenticeship prepares high schoolers for entry into a DOL-registered program.
The Tennessee High pre-apprenticeship provides a seamless pathway for students to enter into long-term employment starting at $11 per hour with pay increases every six months leading to at least $18 per hour upon completing the four-year apprenticeship.
“Both pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeships are a pathway to sustainable employment for so many in our state,” said Tyra Copas, Tennessee’s apprenticeship director, who was named to that position by the Tennessee Department of Labor in September of 2019. “It is a workforce solution that directly addresses the workforce challenges our employers face every day.”
According to the Labor Department, the apprenticeship benefits are substantial. Companies that use such programs can diversify their workforce, improve productivity and profitability, standardize training, reduce turnover, and receive tax credits.
The RCAM is located at 305 W. Main St.