Apprentice program praised at Vermeer

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Gov. Kim Reynolds is pictured with Vermeer apprentices, mentors and others. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg visited Vermeer on Aug. 1 to learn more about the real-world results of the administration’s apprenticeship program. Mentors, students and Vermeer executives all sang the program’s praises.

Mary Andringa with Vermeer said the company needs skilled workers to meet the demand for products. The apprenticeship program – along with the Pella Career Academy – are helping the company.

“The Career Academy has been so crucial to the apprenticeship program,” Andringa said.

According to Reynolds, the program is going strong in nine school districts currently. There is interest to expand it from 50 more across the state.

Through the program, high school upperclassmen spend half their day working at Vermeer alongside experienced mentors. They spend about 20 hours a week at Vermeer during the school year. This summer, they have worked full, 40-hour weeks.

Reynolds and others in attendance credit the program’s success in Pella because of the partnerships involved. Not only is the program being used at Vermeer, but PPI, Pella Corp, Co-Line Welding and Central College Dining Services also take part in it.

“I think we’re blowing up what K-12 education should look like,” Reynolds said. The students enjoy getting out of the classroom and gaining the real-world experience. One said working in the factory is not as “boring” as school.

Everyone wants to see guidance counselors inform students about the opportunities that exist in factories – that may not necessitate a college degree. Advanced knowledge and specified training is still needed, as today’s factories are very technical.

Jason Andringa welcomes Gov. Kim Reynolds. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

Reynolds is serving on the president’s job expansion committee. One of her goals is to keep young Iowans in the state. Those on the panel, by and large, do intend to stay in Iowa after graduation. Gregg is heading the Empower Rural Iowa initiative, specifically intended to keep rural Iowa going. There are many aspects of the two programs which overlap.

“All of us are always looking for opportunities for each of you,” Andringa told the students in attendance. If they want to move beyond welding, the company can make it happen.

At the time of Reynolds’s visit to Vermeer, there were 80,000 jobs available in Iowa. Following the conversation, Reynolds told the media that she is very excited about the program and gladly shares information and results around the world.

“Every business, I don’t care what size, they need employees right now,” Reynolds said. She hopes every student has the opportunity to take part in a program similar to the apprenticeships offered in Pella.