Alamance Community College has been approved as an official apprenticeship sponsor through the auspices of ApprenticeshipNC, the state agency that oversees apprenticeships in North Carolina. The College is registered with the state and the U.S. Department of Labor through ApprenticeshipNC.
ACC now takes on the responsibilities previously performed by businesses interested in having student apprentices, but which required many man-hours of work. This includes contact with ApprenticeshipNC, registration of pre-apprentices and apprentices, documentation of related education and on-the-job training hours, and checking acquired competencies regularly.
“A lot of companies shy away from this additional work although they would profit from an apprenticeship program. ACC decided to become a sponsor and relieve the companies from some of that paperwork,” said Bettina Akukwe, the College’s Apprenticeship Implementer.
For ACC, it means becoming a conduit for recruiting more students to the college.
“We are already seeing a growing interest in apprenticeships, and we expect that interest to grow even more,” said Akukwe.
In the future, ACC plans to offer summer pre-apprenticeship programs where students can learn basic skills in a trade. During their pre-apprenticeship, companies can observe the development of these students and hire them into the apprenticeship program.
“We understand that not all pre-apprentices will be offered to continue into an apprenticeship with one of our company partners, but we hope that this program will help students reaffirm that they are in the right program, so they will ultimately continue with their education at ACC regardless of an apprenticeship offer,” added Akukwe.
Alamance Community College becomes an apprenticeship sponsor on the heels of already enjoying a successful partnership with the Career Accelerator Program (CAP) since 2016. CAP is a four-year apprenticeship in Machining, Mechatronics or Industrial Systems in cooperation with ten local companies. In this context, ACC already gained some knowledge of youth apprenticeship programs.
Whereas CAP apprentices are hired right out of high school, the College’s goal was to create a program for adults that have a need to retrain or upskill.
“Horticulture companies were one of the first to reach out to ACC and ask for an apprenticeship program, so the College started its path to become an apprenticeship sponsor,” explained Akukwe. “We had to identify an occupation, develop an on-the-job training program and competency checklist, write a matching education program and set a wage scale. All of this would not have been possible without the input of our industry partner, Nature’s Select, and the assistance and guidance by Wanda Ramos-McPherson and Tiffany Jacobs from ApprenticeshipNC.”
A Nature’s Select Piedmont employee currently serves on ACC’s Horticulture Technology advisory board. Through this connection, they began partnering to offer industry training to their employees. Several companies reached out to ACC’s Horticulture department to request an apprenticeship program. After several meetings, Nature’s Select was the most persistent to continue on this journey. Nature’s Select will select current employees to enter the apprenticeship program and earn the Turfgrass Management Certificate from the College’s Horticulture Technology program.
“Our department is so excited to have this apprenticeship in place at the College,” said Dr. Elizabeth Riley, Department Head of Horticulture Technology. “This is a new way for us to provide support to our industry members where participants get training in the classroom that correlates with what they are learning through their on-the-job training. Our goal is to not only bring in more industry partners that fit into this particular occupation, but to create more opportunities in other areas of our industry such as irrigation, plant production, and in the area of tree care management.”
The College plans to grow the sponsorship to different areas, such as welding, heating and air, and automotive. Depending on the employer, potential apprentices may be required to apply for an apprenticeship or may need to be a current employee of a partner company.
“Our vision is to quickly establish pre-apprenticeship programs,” said Bettina Akukwe. “For these, potential students will have to apply to ACC for a pre-apprenticeship. The details will have to be determined. Interested companies could hire the students right out of the pre-apprenticeship program.”