Apprentices of Siemens USA think like master craftsmen

[ from New America ]

Image Credit: New America

Image Credit: New America

Apprenticeship Program Profile: Siemens Charlotte

In 2011 when Siemens could not find enough qualified workers for its newly opened gas turbine factory in Charlotte, the company started the apprenticeship program—which is now one of the more than 550 registered apprenticeship programs in North Carolina. Applying to the apprenticeship at Siemens is no less competitive than applying to a top-tier college. “It’s not that you apply and get in,” said Orkhan Patsiyev, a fourth-year apprentice at the program. After four selection rounds, which include transcript screening, aptitude tests, orientation, and pre-apprenticeship—only four to eight candidates are offered the apprentice positions from an original pool of more than 100 applicants.

Once through the selection process, apprentices at Siemens are paid and receive on-the-job training in mechatronics and machining. At the same time, apprentices work toward an associate degree in machining or engineering technology at a community college nearby, with the full cost of attendance paid by Siemens. Once they successfully complete the program, apprentices are hired as full-time employees and can work at any Siemens location in the U.S., with a starting wage at around $55,000 (which is on par with median family income in America). Most importantly, completion of the program comes with no student debt.

This is why Mr. Patsiyev decided to apply for the program, instead of going to college to study mechanical engineering as he originally planned. “I wanted to go to the apprenticeship, where I get hands-on experience, get a two-year degree in machining, which I could [use] to study engineering later, when I’ve already had a full-time job at the company that I want to work,” he said. “That kind of makes me change my mind.”

The apprenticeship at Siemens involves 8,000 hours of training in total during four years. Apprentices spend most of that time (6,400 hours) at the factory, where they are paired with mentors, who are tenured machinists or maintenance workers at the factory. The apprentices work alongside with the mentors, who show them how to run a machine correctly and safely and answer their questions about the process. “Within the first year, I learned a lot, because we got one of the best mentors,” said Mr. Patsiyev. Even as a fourth year student who knows more about machining compared to when he first started, Mr. Patsiyev said that he still turns to his mentors whenever anything comes up. At the end of each year, the mentors provide feedback on the progress of each apprentice to the apprenticeship coordinator.

Apprentices spend the remaining 1,600 hours at Central Piedmont Community College, where they take classes toward an associate degree in either machining or engineering technology over three and a half years. Apart from these technical classes, they can take some optional customized training programs at the college, such as business etiquette and public speaking, at the expense of the company.

THE REPORT: Varying Degrees 2018

New America's Annual Survey on Higher Education: Executive Summary

After years of economic growth following the Great Recession, people still feel anxious about the economy and see higher education as essential for improving personal financial circumstances. While New America’s second annual survey about perceptions on higher education shows that Americans believe pursuing education beyond high school is important for career growth and economic security, they still feel that higher education is not fine the way it is, and that government should do more to make it affordable.

Varying Degrees 2018: New America’s Second Annual Survey on Higher Education surveyed 1,600 Americans ages 18 and older to better understand their perceptions of higher education, economic mobility, and government funding. Like last year, the survey shows unifying themes, as well as differences across various demographics when it comes to the value of education beyond high school in today’s economy and the government’s role in funding this education. We pay particular attention to the similarities and differences of opinion among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in this election year.

Our top findings include:

  • Americans believe well-paying jobs require education after high school. Less than half (48 percent) believe there are well-paying jobs that do not require education after high school.

  • Americans believe education after high school creates opportunities. Most Americans (80 percent) believe there are more opportunities for those who pursue education after high school versus only 14 percent who say there is more opportunity for those who pursue work right away.

  • Americans want change in higher education. Like last year, only one in four Americans believes that higher education is fine the way it is.

  • Americans believe public colleges and universities are worth the costbut feel mixed about private and for-profit colleges and universities. A majority of Americans say community colleges and public four-year colleges and universities are worth the cost (81 percent and 65 percent, respectively). Whereas only about two in five Americans believe that private (44 percent) and for-profit (40 percent) colleges and universities are worth the cost.

  • Regardless of demographics, Americans like their local colleges and universities. Four out of five (81 percent) have a positive view of the higher education institutions near them.

  • Americans support workforce-based programs such as apprenticeship.There is wide agreement (90 percent) that apprenticeships and skills training programs prepare students for a good standard of living.

  • Americans believe higher education is a public benefit and that the government should do more to make it affordable. A majority (60 percent) believe government should spend tax dollars on higher education because it is good for society, compared with 27 percent who say students should fund it because higher education is a personal benefit. Over three-quarters of Americans think state and federal government should spend more tax revenue on higher education to make it more affordable.

Christine Haskell, PHD has built her practice on credible, published research and data. In the Research Series, you’ll find highlights, shareable statistics, and links to the full source material.