It is often said that it takes a village to accomplish a desired outcome of an undertaking that would be difficult for any one person or entity to achieve alone. Perhaps the adage could apply to an issue as vital as fostering the next generation of skilled workers.
Forming a pipeline of trained talent to meet regional workforce demands requires a collaborative effort between key stakeholders. Such an effort in South Alabama is underway between governmental, educational and industrial partners.
As part of the Yellowhammer News Connect to your Future series, the following serves as an on-the-job training success story courtesy of series sponsor AlabamaWorks.
AM/NS Calvert, a Coastal Alabama-based steel finishing facility, boasts a robust 1,600-member workforce due to quality training methods and practices implemented by company leadership.
To ensure prospective workers are prepared to join its ranks, the company has formed a partnership with local workforce incubator, Coastal Alabama Community College, through its Industrial Maintenance Apprenticeship Program.
The college’s program is registered with the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL), with AM/NS Calvert serving as an eligible provider.
Currently-enrolled students at Coastal Alabama Community College who are interested in the apprenticeship program and beginning a career in industrial maintenance may apply through the college. Upon earning acceptance into the program, students are presented with curriculum specific to industrial maintenance. Shortly after gaining knowledge in the classroom setting, apprentices partake in on-the-job training at the company.
Apprentices must complete a total of 2,000 on-the-job training hours to receive their apprenticeship certification from ADOL. AM/NS Calvert and college staff coordinate through a shared tracking system to ensure apprentices’ competencies and work hours are met. Apprentices rotate between four maintenance mill areas on-site during on-the-job training sessions.
The company’s goal is to have a new group session begin every May to create a consistent pipeline of apprentices joining its ranks.
Yellowhammer News recently spoke with current AM/NS Calvert apprentice Zach Coaker regarding his experience with the program.
Coaker, age 19, last year began his industrial maintenance studies at Coastal Alabama Community College at Thomasville. He is currently in his fourth month of work as an apprentice.
He describes his experience with the program as being extremely beneficial for his development. Being an understudy of current AM/NS Calvert employees, Coaker has gained a deep understanding of the company’s culture and values.
When asked what advice he would offer to prospective apprentices, Coaker provided a strong endorsement of the program and deemed it to be a golden opportunity.
“I’d tell them if they have the opportunity, take it. It’s a great learning experience,” says Coaker. “One of the main things that has really stood out to me is really just the hands-on experience. We learn it in school… but once you’re out here in the field and hands-on, it’s a total different nature. That’s one of the biggest things to me. And the mentors and the people that are willing to help and really put you under their wing, teaches you and shows that they really care about you. That’s another thing that sticks out a lot. It feels more like a family than a workplace around here.”
For AM/NS Calvert, whose goal is to expand and invest in its robust workforce, the program is sure to be of long-term benefit for not only the company but for its industrial peers as well.
By establishing a pipeline of skilled labor through a collaborative partnership with Coastal Alabama Community College and ADOL’s Mobile regional office, the company has built a strong foundation upon which it can develop its future workforce.
AM/NS Calvert tells Yellowhammer News that its relationship with ADOL had proved invaluable to its efforts. Even after an apprentice goes on to earn the status of company employee, Coastal Alabama Community College will actively inquire about the worker’s progress.
AM/NS Calvert was recently recognized by Gov. Kay Ivey for its workplace learning program and its successes in developing skilled labor in its regional workforce district. The company plans to share its processes with industrial peers so others may benefit from the blueprint AM/NS Calvert has successfully utilized.
Developing a skilled, trained and educated workforce is no easy task. An ambitious undertaking such as this most certainly holds its fair share of challenges, which is why fostering longstanding partnerships with key stakeholders is critical in finding the blueprint to success.
Collaboration between industry, academia and government can prove instrumental in placing workers on a path to excel in their respected career fields as evidenced by this success story.
Thank you to our “Connect to your Future” sponsors: Alabama Power, AlabamaWorks and Manufacture Alabama for making this initiative possible.
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL