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Amcor Specialty Cartons Americas LLC joined the Rockingham Apprenticeship Technical Opportunities Partnership (RockATOP) in 2018 as one of the program’s inaugural partners because it wanted to help Rockingham County’s youth discover that there are career opportunities available locally.
“We lost a lot of industry in the county, and we were losing people who were going out of the county to go to work,” says Cindy Smith, Human Resources Manager at Amcor’s Reidsville location. “Rockingham is a huge county that’s traditionally tobacco and textiles, and both of those have gone to the wayside or been bought out by bigger companies. The younger generation tends to feel they can’t make a good living if they stay. The apprenticeship program helps them understand what is available here and that it’s a good place to work.”
RockATOP connects companies with bright, motivated high school juniors and seniors who work part-time and go to school part-time through a four-year apprenticeship program. After high school, RockATOP’s youth apprentices go on to Rockingham Community College (RCC) where they graduate with an associate degree applicable to their job, zero debt, and the possibility of full-time employment with their company.
Amcor is a global leader in the packing industry operating 23 locations in 17 countries. The company has around 130 employees in their Reidsville location, including two apprentices. One apprentice works in maintenance and one is training across all departments. The company manufactures cigarette cases and cartons for some of the country’s biggest cigarette brands.
Amcor’s equipment is very specialized, making it difficult to find talent familiar with the machinery. “The way our presses work, it’s not something where you can just hop from industry to industry,” says Cindy. “We train our apprentices through the whole process. They’re coming to us right out of school; it’s nice to be able to train young minds who are having their first experience in manufacturing.”
Amcor has several older workers with significant knowledge and experience who are nearing retirement. RockATOP’s apprenticeship program allows Amcor to put a contingency plan in place by training its next generation of leaders.
“This is one of the ways to make sure we have people who are trained and ready to take the place of the people who are going to be retiring,” says Cindy. As a bonus, Amcor’s older employees enjoy having someone to whom they can pass down their legacy. “They’re transferring their knowledge to someone who is a clean slate, and they enjoy it.”
She continues, “Through the program, we teach the apprentices a trade, they learn our company, and we learn about them. It’s good for both of us. The two apprentices we have, there’s no absenteeism problem; they’re willing to do whatever you ask them to do — and they ask good questions!”
Cindy shares, “In our maintenance department, we have one gentleman who is close to retirement and he has a ton of knowledge; he’s what we call a Controls Tech. Having an apprentice in that department to learn the basics has allowed us to move our other maintenance staff up so they can train with this gentleman before he retires. It gives us flexibility we didn’t have before.”