W.Va. Among National Apprenticeship Leaders

Apprenticeships date back to medieval times. Think of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. Why was Benjamin Franklin such a great writer, editor, and thinker? He started as an apprentice in a printing company at the age of 10. More than half of European high school students are in active learning.

What’s old is new again, and the growing professional trend seems well-suited to Mountain State’s workforce.

Dave Lavender, from the West Virginia Department of Economic Development in Workforce Training and Apprenticeship, explained that these positions offer paid, short-term, work-based experiences.

“An apprenticeship is at least part-time employment, 20 hours per week or more, as designated by the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeships,” Lavender said. “It’s paid work. It’s meant to be a permanent job on the ramp to a career.

Lavender said West Virginia ranks fifth per capita in the United States for apprenticeships. He said the state has adopted the proven model used by plumbers, pipefitters, welders and others in the skilled trades. It is a model now applied to a multitude of career paths, from meat cutting to the world of high technology.

“We have over 100 IBM apprentices at the rocket center,” Lavender said. “We have apprentices in cybersecurity, the solar panel and wind turbine industry and home health aides. These are great, well-paying jobs. Kids can graduate from high school and earn a good living wage.

As one of the last true glass factories in the state, Blenko glass production manager David Wertz worried about the survival of the century-old Milton institution within a national industry. in decline.

Blenko recently launched the state’s first registered glassworker apprenticeship program, advancing its blossoming commitment to apprenticeship, with young people learning a historic trade.

“We wouldn’t have a future without it, we’d just be knocked out of the industry,” Wertz said. “It means we have more options and more availability to help our junior workers learn and get more opportunities through outside training.”

Wertz said this not only improves opportunities for Blenko workers, but also for the company and the state.

“That means we’re going to be able to last another 100 years,” Wertz said. “We’re not only making better benefits for our current people, but we’re also creating more careers and more jobs down the road.”

Taylor Brumfield, a fine arts graduate of Glenville State University, said her learning from Blenko Glass helped create a better future for her and the state.

“If you lose this art form, then who else is going to carry it on to keep it in our Appalachian culture?” Brumfield said. “I would prefer to move up the ladder to become a glass parts finisher. I think I’ve come a quarter of the way, but it’s going to take at least five years, that’s a short time.

Lavender said apprenticeships work well here because of West Virginia’s strong work ethic and the inclusive nature of the career program.

“Diversity and inclusion are built in. Everyone has a seat at the table,” Lavender said. “You don’t need to have any other prior experience. You can come on board and we will pay you while we teach you how to do a job.“

For more information on the more than 1,400 apprenticeship places available nationwide, go to Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship website.

Leave a Reply