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If a lack of skilled workers is holding your company back from pursuing new technology or more efficient processes, you are not alone. Many companies find themselves facing the same workforce challenge: an inability to find employees with the skills they need to reach their full business potential.
Pine Hall Brick located in Madison, N.C., was struggling with that very hurdle until they were able to hire apprentices through the Rockingham Apprenticeship and Technical Opportunities Program, also known as RockATOP. “The apprenticeship program gave us the ability to expand roles that would advance us as a manufacturer. We considered where we wanted talent and knowledge as we looked forward,” says Nancy Tulloch Moore, HR Manager at Pine Hall Brick.
The company identified three areas they believed adding skilled employees could boost efficiency and technology. That allowed them to make a plan to hire apprentices for three positions: automation technician, LEAN systems technologist, and predictive maintenance technician.
“These roles have allowed us to explore new initiatives in order to remain competitive in our industry,” says Nancy.
Pine Hall’s three apprentices work and learn on the job while also taking classes at Rockingham Community College. The classes directly link to their work, and all tuition, fees, and books are covered. During the four-year apprenticeship, students get paid to work and graduate with an Associate of Applied Science Degree completely debt-free.
Read more about how students earn and learn.
“Apprenticeship is not just about filling an open position,” says Nancy. “It’s a great opportunity to bring someone in that’s raw but eager to learn and mold them. The students have been exceptional.
“We’ve always believed in education and had a tuition reimbursement program for employees. Apprenticeship has helped us build on that…The students have opened some eyes in our company that anything is possible here.”
One of the biggest benefits of apprenticeship is that it has given Pine Hall Brick the flexibility to look at new technologies and processes. Stanley Bowman, LEAN Coordinator, also serves as the main manager for the apprentices. Under his leadership, they have tested robots for automation, explored laser printing, and conducted a department workflow analysis using LEAN theories.
“I now have department managers asking if apprentices can do some of these things for their department, “ says Nancy.
The apprenticeship program has been so successful at Pine Hall Brick’s North Carolina operations, that Nancy wants to create a program at the company’s Georgia location. “It’s a great program to bring bright young thinkers into your organization.”