Roper part­ner­ship with Ge­or­gia North­west­ern Tech, es­tab­lishes a new ap­pren­tice pro­gram

Walker County Messenger - - News - By Mike O’Neal

Pre­par­ing a skilled work­force is the goal of a new part­ner­ship be­tween Roper Corp. and Ge­or­gia North­west­ern Tech­ni­cal Col­lege.

This up­com­ing fall se­mes­ter will find four em­ploy­ees from LaFayette-based Roper go­ing back to school when they en­roll in a three-year col­lege pro­gram that will en­hance their ca­reer skills.

“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.”

Those ac­cepted into the pro­gram will be groomed to take over for retiring “Baby Boomers” that are crit­i­cal to Roper’s suc­cess.

“The main thing is that our work­force is aging,” said Alan Lyles, main­te­nance team leader for assem­bly at Roper’s lo­cal plant. in LaFayette. “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.”

Lyles said this short­age of younger skilled work­ers is not unique to Roper, and there is only a 5-10 year win­dow to ad­dress the prob­lem, which is why the col­lege and cor­po­ra­tion are form­ing this part­ner­ship.

“We want to push ma­jor manufacturing and the jobs that come with it back into the United States,” said Scott Brown, Roper Corp. pres­i­dent. “With this ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram, we are plan­ning to ad­vance the skill sets of our work­force.”

Brown and GNTC Pres­i­dent Pete McDon­ald met re­cently to for­mal­ize a three­year Reg­is­tered Ap­pren­tice­ship project to train the next era of skilled work­force at the North­west Ge­or­gia manufacturing giant.

Roper will se­lect four work­ers from among its ex­ist­ing work­force of nearly 1,800. An­other four will en­ter the pro­gram next year and an­other four the year af­ter that.

“Now it’s time to ex­e­cute,” Lyles, said. “We post the open­ing at the plant, take a few weeks to se­lect the first group and they’ll be ready for the fall se­mes­ter.”

Those cho­sen will con­tinue as em­ploy­ees in LaFayette but will travel to GNTC’s cam­pus in Ring­gold for classes, said Scott Lee Reece, Roper Cor­po­ra­tion or­ga­ni­za­tional de­vel­op­ment leader.

“We are go­ing to be send­ing our work­ers to train in the col­lege’s mecha­tron­ics pro­gram,” he said.

This is a pi­lot pro­gram, dif­fer­ent from those al­ready in place be­cause it is be­ing spon­sored by the col­lege rather than a com­pany. There are al­ready ap­pren­tice pro­grams at GNTC’s Whit­field Mur­ray Cam­pus spon­sored by Mo­hawk In­dus­tries and The HON Com­pany.

The short­age com­pa­nies of all sizes are fac­ing is what the U.S. Bureau of La­bor and Sta­tis­tics 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.

“The Tech­ni­cal Col­lege Sys­tem of Ge­or­gia has been at the fore­front of sim­i­lar pro­grams in the United States,” said Sarah Har­ri­son, Ge­or­gia WorkS­mart re­gional ap­pren­tice­ship co­or­di­na­tor. “There were three na­tion­wide, and we’ve added eight.

“Ge­or­gia North­west­ern has been a fan­tas­tic test pi­lot for the Reg­is­tered Ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram,”

Not only will the com­pany gain skilled work­ers from the pro­gram, be­cause it is col­lege-spon­sored Roper will be freed from ad­min­is­tra­tive pa­per­work.

In ad­di­tion to pos­si­bly help­ing em­ploy­ers re­cruit and tar­get em­ploy­ees el­i­gi­ble for the pro­gram, par­tic­i­pat­ing com­pa­nies 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.

“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.”

Of­fi­cials from Roper Corp., Ge­or­gia North­west­ern Tech­ni­cal Col­lege and the state’s WorkS­mart pro­gram re­cently met to in­sti­tute a new ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram. Seated, from left: Rhonda Beasley, Roper Corp. hu­man re­sources man­ager; Scott Brown, Roper Corp. pres­i­dent; C. Pete McDon­ald, GNTC pres­i­dent; Dr. Heidi Popham, GNTC ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent. Stand­ing, from left: Dr. Michael Fen­nell, GNTC dean of aca­demic af­fairs; Scott Lee Reece, Roper Corp. or­ga­ni­za­tional de­vel­op­ment leader; Dr. Mindy McCan­non, GNTC vice pres­i­dent of aca­demic af­fairs; Alan Lyles, Roper Corp. main­te­nance team leader for assem­bly; Steve Pat­ter­son, Roper Corp. manufacturing en­gi­neer­ing man­ager for fab­ri­ca­tion fin­ish­ing and fa­cil­i­ties; Mike Sig­niski, Roper Corp. manufacturing en­gi­neer­ing man­ager for assem­bly; Sarah Har­ri­son, Ge­or­gia WorkS­mart re­gional ap­pren­tice­ship co­or­di­na­tor; and Rod­ney Lewis, Roper Corp. main­te­nance busi­ness leader. (Mes­sen­ger photo/Mike O’Neal)

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