After a year, MPM hopes apprentices opt to become full-time employees of the company. According to the Skills Funding Agency, a government entity in the United Kingdom, 71 percent of former apprentices stay with the employer. Three of the apprentices MPM has trained since 2010 are now in skilled positions with the company, including 26-year-old Haley in a leadership role. (The United States also has an apprenticeship program – ApprenticeshipUSA, offered through the Department of Labor. For information, visit dol.gov/apprenticeship.)

Wilson credits part of the reason for the success of MPM’s apprenticeship program to the hiring of a full-time, on-site advisor to ensure the participants get the support, training and development they require. “[Workforce development] is not easy. It takes commitment and consistency,” says Wilson. “It’s about creating opportunities.”

Creating a Custom Training Program

Company: Miles Fiberglass and Composites

Headquarters: Clackamas, Ore.

Employees: 62

Measure of Success: All employees will be cross-trained within two months

For years, the standard method of training new employees at Miles Fiberglass and Composites had been to rely on “tribal knowledge,” says Justin Luchak, quality assurance/training facilitator at the company. “If we were training somebody in the finishing department, we would just pair the new employee with an experienced one and say, ‘Teach him everything you know.’” The problem was there were no lists to check off indicating the new employee learned the necessary tasks, no test to indicate he or she mastered those tasks and no guarantee that the trainer was adept at instruction.

Last fall, Miles Fiberglass embarked on creating a new training process and career pathways for employees with the help of the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP). The OMEP – the state’s sanctioned MEP center – is a non-profit organization that helps small and mid-sized Oregon manufacturers thrive. Lori Miles-Olund, president of Miles Fiberglass, is a member of OMEP’s Board of Directors. When she heard about the organization’s new training program, she immediately signed up the company. “It’s one of the few training programs I’ve seen that fits us well because it’s customized,” says Miles-Olund.

Since November, Miles-Olund has met two mornings each week for four hours with a consultant from OMEP. They began by reviewing all the processes at Miles Fiberglass, such as hand layup, finishing and mold maintenance. They analyzed all the tasks related to each process, then created job modules that lead employees step-by-step through each task. “The modules provide about 30 minutes of training,” says M. “So if a layup process takes two hours, then there are four training modules.”