JRL Ventures/Marine Concepts began the workforce development program in 2012 when it opened its second facility, a 300,000-square-foot plant in Sarasota, Fla. The company initially planned to hire 25 to 45 new employees in Sarasota. The program was so successful that the company ended up with approximately 125 employees.

Chambers encourages composites manufacturers to reach out to their local workforce development agencies for guidance. “They will help and mentor you,” he says. “There’s not a more important part of your business than the people portion. If you don’t have time to spend training your people, then your business will not grow.”

Offering an Apprenticeship Program

Company: MPM

Headquarters: Leeds, England

Employees: 22

Measure of Success: Total sales and number of employees have doubled in five years

Six years ago, MPM recruited Jonny Haley as an apprentice. Today he is a production leader at the manufacturing company and winner of the 2014 Employee of the Year Award from industry trade association Composites UK.

MPM hires two to three apprentices each year, “some with good success, some with not-so-good success,” admits Ben Wilson, managing director of MPM. But the company remains committed to its apprenticeship program, and employees like Haley highlight its potential. “We strongly believe in apprenticeships as a way of building the skills of potential future employees,” says Wilson. “We are always looking for young recruits who have energy, enthusiasm, commitment, a great work ethic and an ability to work in a team.”

MPM recruits its apprentices from various organizations. One was hired through Talent Match, a program of the Leeds-based charity Ahead Partnership that helps find meaningful jobs for people between 18 and 24 years old who have been unemployed for at least a year. MPM’s newest apprentice, Connor Dockerty, was recruited through The Works Charity, which helps line up vocational training for young people. Dockerty began working as a production operator and hand laminator in January. “He has already made fantastic progress with skill levels, flexibility as a team member and his efficiencies,” says Wilson.

Apprentices receive on-the-job training as either a production operator or finishing operator, working side-by-side with an employee on the shop floor. “With composites, there’s only so much you can learn from theory books and in classes,” says Wilson. “Production and hand layup require learning by doing.”

During the one-year program, apprentices can earn levels 2 and 3 of the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) – a level system of work-based awards in the United Kingdom ranging from Level 1 (basic work activities) to Level 8 (senior management). “We look forward to the official Composites NVQ, which is currently being put forward by government bodies,” says Wilson.