Apprenticeships for everyone: Non-traditional industries find effective way to train next generation

While the term may conjure thoughts of medieval craftsmen, apprenticeships are beginning to crop up in all businesses and industries to help employees build careers and employers pass on important skills.
Entry-level positions and internships can help employees find a career path that suits them, but Michigan Works! Southeast is working to introduce another career training option for all industries through apprenticeships. While the term may conjure thoughts of medieval craftsmen, or some more contemporary careers like electrical technicians or tattoo artists, apprenticeships are beginning to crop up in all businesses and industries to help employees build careers and employers pass on important skills.

Michigan Works! Southeast Business Services Manager Richard Scott says that in today's workforce, many employees leave their positions without passing on their knowledge and expertise. That can ultimately make it more difficult for businesses to remain functional if they are unable to find employees with the appropriate skills to fill vacant positions. Scott says apprenticeships can give businesses more stability and ensure that skills are transferable if an employee moves on or if the company dissolves. Apprenticeships cost the apprentice nothing to earn money while they learn a trade, and Michigan Works! Southeast can help some employers find funding to cover the costs of training.

“An apprenticeship is a long-term commitment, where the company is committed to getting you a specific skill,” Scott says. “A lot of times it shows that someone within that company shows initiative and wants to take skills to a new level with apprenticeships.”
Wilson Marine Brighton apprentice Jason Williams.
Scott says apprenticeships are traditional in industries like welding, HVAC, and rigging, but more uncommon fields, like child care and cosmetology, are also beginning to explore apprenticeships. Scott believes that “every position we have is apprenticeable,” and that utilizing apprenticeships allows businesses to emphasize the importance of the skills that make up a position. 

“It’s an exciting time for apprenticeships,” Scott says. “It’s really just a solid way to train your employees. It’s very intentional and structured, and typically accomplishes what you set out to do.”

One of the more uncommon apprenticeships Scott and the Michigan Works! Southeast team are currently working on is at Wilson Marine, a family-owned and operated boat dealer with locations across Michigan. Scott says the company's marine service technician apprenticeship is relatively rare in the industry, but he hopes more marinas will take after Wilson Marine after its apprenticeship has been finalized through Michigan's State Apprenticeship Expansion office.
Wilson Marine representative Debi Schroeder at Wilson Marine in Brighton.
Wilson Marine representative Debi Schroeder says the company had tried offering an apprenticeship previously, but those efforts were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

“It has been very difficult to find employees, especially in the technical field,” Schroeder says in an email. “We gain experienced technicians once they have completed the program. The employees get a wealth of knowledge and experience working with our senior members.”

This apprenticeship will be available through Wilson Marine’s Brighton location, but Schroeder hopes to expand it to the company’s other locations in Wixom, Howell, Commerce Charter Township, and Harrison Township. 
Wilson Marine Brighton apprentice Owen Koza.
“While we are just getting our program started with [Michigan Works! Southeast], I think that it will be a great opportunity for employers and apprentices combined,” Schroeder says. “The more practical knowledge that we can give our employees to better understand their job, the better.”

Scott hopes to collaborate with not just businesses, but also school systems, to spread more awareness about modern apprenticeships and their importance. With personal experience as an apprentice and as a mentor, Scott hopes to show job-seekers the value of an apprenticeship. 

“We need to do more as an industry to help students understand things like applied math as opposed to math problems for the sake of problems,” Scott says. “We need to bring these experiences into the classroom to show students where these skills can actually be applied.”

More information on apprenticeships can be found on Michigan Works! Southeast's website.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photos by Doug Coombe.
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