Student at Blong Technology Center

A student in Eastern Iowa Community Colleges' Engineering Technology program works in the Computer Numeric Control lab at the college's Blong Technology Center in Davenport. The college district has been recognized with a national manufacturing leadership award for the innovative way in which trains its students.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Across the Quad-City region, apprenticeships are the foundation of many careers. 

Workers in the building and skilled trades, advanced manufacturing, technology, culinary arts and more are getting their start in the workplace through an apprenticeship. 

"That's really how we fill our future workforce — through the apprentice programs," said Jerry Lack, executive director of the Tri-City Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents the Quad-City region's construction trades.

Apprenticeships offer students a program "where they earn while they learn," he said.

Working alongside trained journeymen, apprentices learn the various trades through a combination of on-the-job-training, classroom work and field work. The training — offered free to the student — is supported financially by the contractors and the journeymen, Lack said.

Apprenticeship candidates are selected by a Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee made up of that particular trades union members and management.  "It really is a good partnership between labor and management," he said.

Likewise, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges' Blong Technology Center partners with regional manufacturers and companies to understand their workforce training needs. "We do everything we can to support the businesses whether that is through apprenticeships, customized programs or credit (courses)," said Daniel Marvin, EICC's dean of concurrent enrollment and career technical education programming.

Marvin, who also is director of the Blong Technology Center, Davenport, said the college is a sponsor for manufacturing and IT apprenticeships, which allow business and industry to provide apprenticeships. It sponsors about 30 apprentices across the fields of manufacturing, engineering technology, IT and other areas. In addition, Scott Community College, Bettendorf, offers its own apprenticeships through its Culinary Arts Degree program.

Marvin said a team of staff constantly are reviewing a business partners' training needs in order to provide the skills training business and industry will need now and in the future. "Their needs are always changing depending on the environment," he said. "We have to be very flexible."

Lack said each construction trade offers its own apprenticeship and also must keep up to date with their industries and manpower needs based on future projects, retirements and other issues. In the past five years, he said several trades have also upgraded their training facilities to be state-of-the-art.

The enhanced training comes as the demographics of students have changed. "We used to get a lot more out of high school, but a lot of vocational education programs have been reduced. So we're seeing more 25- to 30-year-olds — people who have been out in the workforce and say 'This (job) is not working and come to us.' "

But Lack said the industry is beginning to again recruit younger people. "By the time you complete an apprenticeship, it's the equivalent of a college degree," he said, adding that the push to college the past several years has been one of the challenges for the trades.

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