Bucks’ Workforce Training recognized by state as pre-apprenticeship programs

Endorsement by the PA Department of Labor and Industry provides graduates a direct career path to apprenticeship opportunities

Bucks County Community College’s Center for Workforce Development announced that its Metalwork and Industrial Maintenance Training programs have been formally recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry as meeting pre-apprenticeship standards.

The state endorsement of these programs as pre-apprenticeships gives students a career pathway to apprenticeship opportunities, allowing them to use hours gained through their training at Bucks toward CNC Machinist or Maintenance Apprenticeships, college officials said.

The news came in time to mark National Apprenticeship Week, Nov. 11-17. Established by the U.S. Department of Labor, the nationwide celebration showcases the impact apprenticeship programs have on closing the U.S. skills gap and preparing the American workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

With 7.2 million job openings in the United States, apprenticeships are industry-driven, high-quality career pathways in which employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction and transferable credentials.

Bucks established the Metalwork Training program in 2014 to better serve both job seekers and manufacturing businesses. The Industrial Maintenance Training program was created in 2016 in response to the success of the Metalwork Program and employers’ needs for a skilled workforce. The goal of both programs is to retrain unemployed and underemployed individuals to fill the ever-growing skills gap for well-trained entry-level employees for manufacturing jobs. Both programs consistently boast a 92 percent job placement rate for all graduates.

That success is tied to the strong partnership that Bucks’ Center for Workforce Development has built with local manufacturing companies, the Bucks County Workforce Development Board and PA CareerLink.

John Shegda, president of M&S Centerless Grinding and Meron Medical, has been involved in the program since its inception, working with Bucks to build the curriculum and hiring multiple students who have completed the training.

“Formally registering Bucks’ programs as recognized pre-apprenticeships will help to grow the pool of apprentices and the overall number of employers offering apprenticeships to their employees,” said Shegda.

Through these partnerships, the college has graduated 275 students, with an average starting rate of between $15 and $20 an hour. The high success rate is due to the college’s robust candidate vetting and testing process, dedication of industry experts as instructors, the efforts of a dedicated job developer and career coach, as well as partnerships with employers, the Bucks County Workforce Development Board and the County of Bucks.

The Metalwork and Industrial Maintenance Pre-Apprenticeship programs run every 13 weeks, on average. Both programs require classroom and hands-on shop instruction delivered over 12 weeks for a total of 288 hours, plus company field trips and job shadowing. Training takes place in Bristol, Doylestown or Perkasie.

Using PASmart grant funding, Bucks is expanding its Industrial Maintenance Pre-Apprenticeship Training program to high school students and young adults, ages 18 to 24. The course will be modified to take place over 16 weeks, from 1 to 5 p.m., to accommodate students’ schedules during their senior year. Students will gain first-hand experience at local companies through job shadowing and company tours, and are eligible to earn a stipend based on attendance.

For more information on pre-apprenticeship programs and training opportunities, contact Susan Herring, executive director, Center for Workforce Development at 215-968-8364 or susan.herring@bucks.edu.