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