We want to push major manufacturing and the jobs that come with it back into the United States,” said Scott Brown, Roper Corporation President. “With this apprenticeship program, we are planning to advance the skill sets of our workforce.” Brown and Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) President Pete McDonald met to sign on the dotted line on a three-year Registered Apprenticeship project to train the next era of skilled workforce at the Northwest Georgia manufacturing giant.

Beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, GNTC will sponsor the new apprenticeship agreement with Walker County, Georgia’s largest employer. The pilot year of the apprenticeship project will begin with selected workers of Roper’s 1,800-strong workforce heading to GNTC’s Catoosa County Campus in Ringgold, Georgia. “We are going to be sending our workers to train in the college’s Mechatronics program,” said Scott Lee Reece, Roper Corporation Organizational Development Leader. GNTC’s Whitfield Murray Campus currently takes part in two other registered apprenticeships with Mohawk Industries and The HON Company. In those two cases, however, it’s the companies that are sponsoring the projects.

With “Baby Boomers” at Roper, as well as throughout the nation’s workforce, planning to head off into retirement, companies now face a tough task. They hope that either they will find the skilled workforce they need from within their communities or provide their current staff with the next generation training needed to fill the gaps. “Our workforce is aging,” added Alan Lyles, Roper Corporation Maintenance Team Leader For Assembly. “There aren’t enough workers available that have the skill sets we need now and in the near future. So, with the help of this apprenticeship program, we’ve decided to train some of our own.” With more than 1,800 in its workforce, the Roper Corporation is Walker County, Georgia’s largest employer. This major component of G.E.’s Appliance Division is also one of the largest employers across the Tennessee Valley.

The shortage companies of all sizes are facing is what the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) calls the Labor Skills Gap. The bureau’s most recent numbers show that job openings have increased nationwide. However, at the same time, the number of new hires made by companies around the country has decreased. The percentage of skilled labor available in the U.S. has steadily decreased every year since 2010. That’s where the Georgia Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship Program steps in.

“With the shortage of people having the right skill sets in some industries, this is a great way for a company to hire beginning workers and equip them with what they’ll need to perform well,” said Dr. Mindy McCannon, Georgia Northwestern Technical College Vice President of Academic Affairs. “They’ll get the knowledge for their expertise from their coursework at the college. Then, they will get to apply what they’ve learned when they return to their company through the guidance of a journeyman. Apprenticeship is an idea that has been around for a long time. But now, it is getting renewed interest because of the skills gap we are facing.”

The Technical College System of Georgia, which GNTC is a unit of, is helping provide this occupation-related instruction to qualified candidates in Georgia’s workforce. “Georgia Northwestern has been a fantastic test pilot for the Registered Apprenticeship program,” said Sarah Henderson, Regional Apprenticeship Coordinator for Georgia WorkSmart. The program can also help employers recruit and target employees eligible for the program. Companies which take part can potentially have access to state and federal assistance towards the apprenticeship process for its workforce. And, for the apprentice, it means a guaranteed raise in pay with each pre-determined benchmark they surpass during the Registered Apprentice process.

When an apprentice completes the Registered Apprenticeship program, they receive assistance with their career in the future, as well. “When an apprentice completes a program, they will get a designation through the Georgia Department of Labor that says they are a registered apprentice,” added McCannon. “That recognition is looked highly upon across many industries. It shows that this person has acquired a certain level of knowledge and skill, as well as put those skill sets to work, successfully. A level that will assure employers that the apprentice has the right set of tools to perform well.”

The Georgia Department of Labor defines apprenticeship as a work-based training method that combines formal instruction with on-site, occupation-related training. Apprentices typically work 30-40 hours per week and receive classroom training through part-time attendance at technical colleges, universities, or approved training providers. Using the apprentice model can help businesses grow their own talent and build a motivated and qualified workforce. Employers use apprentice programs to recruit and train new employees and to upskill their current workforce.

“We are going to do everything we can to help Roper succeed,” said Pete McDonald, President of Georgia Northwestern Technical College. “This is a program that we believe will see a lot of growth in the future. We are hoping to expand this to more and more industries as we proceed.” For more information on the Registered Apprenticeship program, you can contact the Georgia Department of Economic Development at 404-962-4000.

For details on enrolling at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, or to ask questions about any of the more than 200 programs the college offers on-campus or online, call the college at 866-983-4682. If you are interested in applying to GNTC for fall semester, applications are due by July 24. You can also visit the college at GNTC.edu. Plus, the college’s Student Help Centers can help you with any question you have. Visit a Student Help Center on the Catoosa, Floyd, Gordon, Polk, Walker, or Whitfield Murray Campuses Monday through Friday between 7:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 14,151 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,956 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 6,195 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.  For additional information, you may also visit GNTC’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, WordPress, and YouTube channels. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.