US Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez was in North Carolina to applaud a new workforce development and education initiative. During a roundtable discussion hosted by Bühler Aeroglide, Perez met with NC Commerce Secretary John Skvarla and other officials to discuss the importance of a skilled workforce. The secretary’s visit was part of a broader agenda to highlight the growing use of apprenticeships that prepare high school students to become highly skilled workers for high-growth industries. He also got a close-up look at just such a workforce development initiative, modeled after a program offered by parent company Bühler Group in Uzwil, Switzerland.
“The ‘earn-while-you-learn’ apprenticeship model is a win-win for businesses and workers alike,” said Perez. “Businesses gain a pipeline of skilled employees in order to grow and workers gain training for jobs that pay well and offer a secure pathway to the middle class. The innovative partnerships developed here in North Carolina should be a model for communities across the country.”
Perez met with students at Bühler Aeroglide’s four-year, on-the-job training program that introduces them to important aspects of manufacturing such as welding and fabrication, and the basics of automation and design. They acquire workplace experience and a paycheck, while simultaneously attending Wake Technical Community College in pursuit of a degree.
After four years, Bühler Aeroglide students graduate with an associate degree in mechanical engineering and credentials recognized by the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the US Department of Labor. They are also guaranteed a job upon graduation.
“Today’s visit by US Secretary Perez and NC Commerce Secretary Skvarla validates the importance of apprenticeships, and we want students to know this is a viable option after high school,” said Hansjoerg Ill, president and CEO at Bühler Aeroglide. “Apprenticeships create a unique opportunity to empower young people and help them gain valuable work experience combined with a college education.”
As co-founder of the North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program (NCTAP), Bühler Aeroglide worked with six Triangle companies last year to establish the apprentice ‘standard.’ Last year, Governor Pat McCory saluted the model at a recruitment program. The manufacturing sector is at the heart of U.S. innovation, and a skilled workforce is vital to productivity and the discovery of new technologies. An increased emphasis on STEM education in math, statistics, algebra, engineering and software development contribute by building pathways needed for growth.
“We are pleased to have had a key role in developing this new apprenticeship standard in North Carolina and we thank colleagues and supporters who helped make it possible,” said Lukas Schoenwetter, director of human resources at Bühler Aeroglide. “As someone who entered an apprenticeship program in Switzerland at a younger age myself, it’s very important to me to see this program realized in the U.S. An education combined with access to the shop floor will help high school graduates build successful careers in manufacturing. These apprentices, in turn, will go on to be highly-skilled employees and will be vital to the development of new ideas, new technologies, and new products that help grow the economy.”
Bühler Aeroglide manufactures dryers, ovens, roasters, toasters, and hot air expansion systems for the food, feed, and industrial product markets.
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