Mondi, Mineral Area College roll out apprenticeship program

Thursday, August 10, 2017
Steven J. Kurtz, left, president of Mineral Area College; Roger McMillian, dean of Career and Technical Education at MAC; Wade Johnson, apprenticeship and training representative for the U.S. Department of Labor; and Bev Hickam, workforce development director at MAC, pose for photos Wednesday at Mondi in Jackson. MAC now is sponsoring registered apprenticeship programs at Mondi through a $67,000 grant from the Missouri Division of Workforce Development.
Fred Lynch

Mineral Area College and Mondi are partnering to start an apprenticeship program to help train skilled workers and fill a growing need in manufacturing.

Representatives from both entities unveiled the program Wednesday at Mondi in Jackson.

Students now will have the opportunity to take apprenticeships to become technicians for flexible manufacturing or flexible packaging printers, said Bev Hickam, workforce development director at Mineral Area College.

The programs are two- and three-year tracks, respectively.

"These programs will help Mondi prepare with regards to hiring machine operators and printers and teach them the skills they need in the business. The programs also help the current workforce hone their skills and learn new skills in an ever-changing industry,"Hickam said.

Wade Johnson, apprenticeship and training representative with the U.S. Department of Labor, said the programs represent "a path to the middle class."

He said the concept of apprenticeship has been around for ages, but it is enjoying a resurgence in part because there's relatively little red tape associated with the programs and the fact employers and employees benefit from them.

He recalled his firsthand experience in completing an apprenticeship program while serving in the U.S. Air Force.

"I've seen the effectiveness," he said, later pointing out the national average salary for those who complete an apprenticeship program is between $55,000 and $60,000.

The programs will include on-the-job training and classroom instruction as well as 15 college credit hours, Hickam said.

Career and Technical Education dean Roger McMillian said any stigma associated with manufacturing jobs is unwarranted.

"[Millennials] think it's dark, a dungeon-looking place," he said. "But you come to Mondi, and it's high-tech. ... It's not just sitting at a machine or a factory line."

He said Mineral Area College is looking forward to developing more registered apprenticeships with other area companies.

The programs are funded in part by a $67,000 grant from the Missouri Division of Workforce Development.

A similar program also is being rolled out in Lee Mechanical in Park Hills, Missouri.

John Mehner, president of Magnet, said finding qualified employees has "never been higher on the list for employers than they are now."

Brian Gerau, director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, praised the program.

"Workforce development is a priority statewide. We are very fortunate to have collaborations like this to ensure that the current workforce meets the demands of industry," he said via email. "Programs like this assist in the retainment of local talent as well as assist in retaining the local industry."

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