Burke County Chamber of Commerce

The Burke Manufacturers Executive Council (BMEC) recently visited the Siemens manufacturing facility in Charlotte to learn about its apprenticeship program. Several companies from the group are working to implement a similar program in Burke County in partnership with Western Piedmont Community College, Burke County Public Schools and Burke Development, Inc. After an in-depth tour of the plant, where Siemens produces generators

Siemens produces generators and turbines at its Charlotte plant.

and turbines, BMEC members enjoyed an informative presentation from Roger Collins, who manages Siemens’ apprenticeship program.

“We are pleased to see the impact the college and our local community is making on our industry’s need for diverse recruitment,” said Valdese Weavers Training Manager Scott Buchanan. “Technology is evolving every day and it is great to see the value placed on adapting to these changes. The trip to Siemens only solidified the amount of success our community can look forward to as we embark on development of an apprenticeship program,” he added.

“I think it is a concrete step towards resolution of a current workforce need,” said Bryan Steen, County Manager and Chairman of Burke Development, Inc. (BDI).

“This shows our manufacturers, and those that might be looking to locate here, that we are progressive and we strive to get results that are beneficial to our local industries – as well as the citizens of Burke County who are employed by them,” explained Steen.

Western Piedmont Community College convened a meeting with local employers following the trip to discuss the next steps in developing an apprenticeship program in Burke County. As part of the program, each apprenticeship is registered with the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the US Department of Labor.

Components of the program include on-the-job learning from one to five years (approximately 2,000 hours per year based on occupation) and job-related education (144 hours each training year). Students are paired with a mentor for the on-the-job learning component.

Upon completion of the proposed program each apprentice would have earned an AAS degree from Western Piedmont Community College and journeyworker credentials that are nationally recognized. Typically the student is paid as a full time employee with a progressive wage scale based on attainment of skill levels and the partnering company covers the cost of their tuition and books.

“While there are many others out there in the marketplace, we can look to Siemens as a model,” said Michael Daniels, Western Piedmont Community College Dean of Science, Engineering and Mathematics.

“With buy-in from our manufacturing partners, we can then customize the program to fit their needs and the needs of our community,” Daniels added.

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