LIMA — Apprenticeship programs in Allen County have helped people like Lucas Gerding, a second-year Grob Systems Inc. mechanical apprentice, follow his dreams and go to school debt-free.
Gerding decided to join the Grob apprenticeship program because he was inspired by his brothers who were mechanical engineers.
“I watched them work at Honda, and I wanted to follow their footsteps, but I didn’t want to pay the cost of a four-year school,” said Gerding, 20.
A high school diploma or a General Educational Diploma are the only requirements for becoming an apprentice.
Apprentices who go through apprenticeship programs at Grob or at UA Local 776 Plumbers and Pipefitters union can receive college credit or even earn an associate’s degree without having to pay. Grob and UA Local 776 Plumbers and Pipefitters fund the education and provide their apprentice free training.
Reimbursements from Allen County OhioMeansJobs can help companies fund apprenticeship program.
“This puts you one step above because you’re still earning a full-time wage while you are going to school, and you’re getting your schooling paid for,” Gerding said. “It’s nice because you don’t have to be the broke college kid that everyone talks about.”
This week is National Apprenticeship Week, a week dedicated to celebrating apprentices and apprenticeships across the country.
UA Local 776 program
The apprenticeship program through UA Local 776 Plumbers and Pipefitters also offers college credit for its apprentices. The union has a partnership with Owens Community College where the apprentices can earn up to 36 college credit hours through their course work and training at the training center.
UA Local 776 Plumbers and Pipefitters offers a five-year apprenticeship program at its training center on 1300 Bowman Road in Lima. During this program the apprentices work during the day and take courses at night.
Through the courses, the apprentices learn about different topics such as welding, rigging, plumbing, math and science. Each year of the program, the apprentice are given more and more responsibilities.
“There is no college debt,” said Brad Wendel, UA Local 776 Plumbers and Pipefitters business manager. “You’re earning money while you are learning.”
At the end of the five years, the apprentice then becomes a journeyman and is matched and employed by contractors.
“When a contractor has a job, they call us and tell us how many they are looking to hire, and we find one of our union workers to go work there,” Wendel said. “Working for contractors will make them well-rounded journeymen because they are learning trades and can take with them to work anywhere in world.”
Apprentices who are going through the programs in Allen County typically earn wages above $13 an hour and receive various company benefits. Each year an apprentice completes in the program, their wages are raised.
“They can make as much as the people who went to school for four years,” Wendel said. “It’s not just a job, it’s a career. Our retention rate is really high because once people start working and see the benefits we offer, they will realize that it is hard to match anywhere elase.”
Individuals who are interested in joining an apprenticeship program at UA Local 776 Plumbers and Pipefitters can stop by the office on 1300 Bowman Road from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Apprentices at Grob
The Grob apprenticeship is a four-year program for mechanical and electrical apprentices. Grob is a Germany-based machine industry company located in Bluffton on 1070 Navajo Drive.
Apprentices in Grob’s apprenticeship program spend the first two years doing general training. During this time, the apprentices explore various departments to get a broad overview of what the company does, said Mike Hawk, Grob mechanical training supervisor.
During the second year, the apprentices go through technical training, where they will spend their time on the floor at a machine shop or building a panel.
Aside from the general training and courses taken at Grob the first two years, the apprentices also take courses at Rhodes State College. Rhodes State College partners with 12 area companies for their apprenticeship programs.
“Partnering with companies gives us a really direct connection with our local industries, and we are able to help with their workforce needs,” said Margo Meyer, Rhodes State College’s director of advanced manufacturing initiatives.
Individuals who are interested in joining the apprenticeship program at Grob are encouraged to attend the open house tour from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Dec. 8.
A college education
At Rhodes State College, the apprentices take two years worth of courses and earn either an associate’s degree in manufacturing engineering technology or in electronic engineering technology. They will also receive a State of Ohio Apprenticeship Completion Certificate.
“By these companies participating in these programs, these students are able to get the skills and become knowledgeable from the related instruction here at Rhodes State College,” said Kent Kahn, Rhodes State College executive director for workforce economic development and continuing education. “Companies are really developing outstanding employees, which is going to help them manufacture and produce excellent products, which benefits the companies in the long run and makes them profitable.”
Through the course work, apprentices learn how to create parts for companies, how to build control panels, how to connect different pieces of the assembly line and about welding and fabrication.
“They need students and employees who know how to troubleshoot and problem solve,” Meyer said. “Because once those pieces of equipment have been installed in their customer’s location, a lot of times the apprentices are the ones who go out and help fix the problem.”
Gerding said he really enjoys the courses that he takes at Rhodes State College because he can easily apply what he has learned.
“I think it puts everything that you learn in a classroom together,” Gerding said. “There are things that I’m learning at Rhodes, and they teach you everything in the book and then I come here and use the same principles.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews