Vermont Apprentices in Practice
Owen Greenwood, a 20-year-old from Highgate, and Lucas Kelley, an 18-year-old from Swanton, are native Vermonters currently working as registered apprentices in Husky Technologies’ revamped apprenticeship training program for CNC machinists. Located right here in Vermont in Milton, Husky is a global leader in injection molding technologies and solutions for various markets, including consumer goods, medical devices, and food and beverage packaging.
One of the ways this company has successfully cornered this market is by engaging their communities through apprenticeships. Registered Apprenticeship programs, particularly in manufacturing, are a growing opportunity for Vermonters. As employers find new and creative ways to attract applicants for good-paying jobs in a market where trained workers are in short supply, Registered Apprenticeship programs are a popular way for companies to bring something else to the table to attract workers.
These programs are an excellent option for anyone who wants to enter or advance in a career in practically any industry. It’s also a great option for anyone wanting to “earn while they learn” because the program integrates on-the-job training with related classroom instruction, which may come with college credit.
To refocus on Owen and Lucas and some of their co-apprentices, the Department asked them about their perspective on their experience as apprentices:
Owen had already been working for Husky when he decided to join the apprenticeship program. “I started the apprenticeship program at the beginning of the summer,” he said. “I was currently already an employee here, and I just wanted to further my knowledge within the company. So I signed up for the apprenticeship program.”
Owen learned about Husky through his school. “I came out of high school,” he explained, “and I ended up doing a couple of field trips here and did a little test for them, and they apparently liked it. And then they offered me the apprenticeship.”
Lucas also learned about this opportunity through his school and, specifically, through the Career Exploration Teacher. “He ended up kind of forcing me to go on a field trip,” Lucas said with a smile. “He had extra seats, and he was like, ‘You’re going.’ And I ended up falling in love with the place. I thought it was the coolest thing.”
Lucas explained that what drew him into Husky was the technology – specifically, the AMC loading cell. The AMC is a fully integrated machining cell with automated pallet loading, work scheduling, and tool chances. “It was the craziest thing to me,” he said.
Both apprentices expressed their appreciation of the pay and the learning opportunity. “I never thought about going to college,” said Owen. “The pay was always great [here],” and he thought that “a more hands-on place to work” would be enjoyable to him. He also emphasized the importance of his community at Husky: it’s as if he is working “with a family.” Lucas said that after he finished training with the first shift and moved to the second shift, all those who worked with him on the first shift gave him their [phone] numbers and said, “If you need help with anything, if you have any questions, call us.” It is a testament to the community Husky creates.
Lucas is enrolled in college for next year and wants to keep that as an option. However, his focus is still on the apprenticeship, and he enjoys his on-the-job learning. “Being able to learn stuff up in the classroom and then come out on the floor and see it actually happen was really, really helpful,” he said.
“I mean, I was going to go into automotive. I knew nothing about machining, and the apprenticeship made it to where I am training for my actual job right now in half the time that it would have taken normally. I came in knowing nothing, and now I pretty much program my own part,” Lucas explained.
Registered Apprenticeships, such as this manufacturing one, are a clear draw for young Vermonters who have excellent skills but don’t know where or how to apply them. Promoting an interest in the trades is vital to Vermont’s future success, and Husky is an excellent partner in getting the workforce engaged straight out of high school.
CFW Electric, based in Danville, VT, is another company that engages with young Vermonters and offers apprenticeships. Garrett Olcott, Cameron Raymond, and Timothy White are three apprentices working for CFW Electric, who all discovered this opportunity in very different ways.
Garrett is in his second year as an apprentice electrician, which he learned about after taking an electricity course at his high school, St. Johnsbury Academy in St. Johnsbury, VT. The 19-year-old, who grew up in East St. Johnsbury, VT, said that one of his teachers “steered” him in the direction [of CFW], and he told him about the pay, which drew him in. He explained that it was a lot better than the pay he was getting farming with his grandfather.
Cameron, a 22-year-old from Lyndonville, found his way to CFW via a different path after spending some time at college before discovering that it was not for him. “I didn’t like it at all,” he said. “So, I left school, I came back here, and just picked up a random job.” Someone told him he should check out a career in the trades, which is precisely what he did. “I came in, talked to [the owner], and he gave me a job (as an apprentice), and it opened up a whole new perspective on what you can do if you don’t go to school,” he explained.
Timothy’s family has been involved in the trades his entire life, so it felt like a clear path forward for him. The 23-year-old Danville native explained that his cousin recommended electrical work and told him about CFW. He called them up and “got an interview and started, and I ended up loving it.” Timothy has completed the electrical apprentice program and is studying for the electrician licensure test.
Timothy said he appreciated the more complicated houses because “you have to be so particular, and it tightens up all your work,” he explained. “When you’re in a place that doesn’t necessarily need to be as organized [as an average residential home], you still end up making your work look just as nice just because you get in that habit.”
This high quality of work and the sense of pride accompanying it come from persistence and patience. Cameron, Timothy, and Garrett all emphasized that the most critical piece of completing an apprenticeship is to “stick with it.” Cameron expanded, saying the “biggest thing is sticking with it and just learning, asking questions, and [acting] like you want to be there. I think that’s what helps you learn the best is when you show up knowing that ‘today I want to learn how to do this,’ or ‘today I’m going to figure out how to do that.’”
Apprenticeships also offer the opportunity to learn other skills, too. “Our people skills get so much better. When I came here, […] I wouldn’t talk to anyone. Once you’re forced to talk to homeowners, you see various people,” Cameron explained. “I can have a little bit more of a mature conversation with someone now […], which I think that this job has helped me a lot being able to communicate with people.” He also said he “became more confident” in himself and his skills.
Another bonus is being able to learn from other tradespeople on the job. “Obviously, you do pick up a ton from other trades and just seeing things,” explained Timothy. “Just to have the ability do your own thing or roughly know what you’re getting into or you have the connections now” makes a big difference, such as having a relationship with a plumber you could call for advice. You gain “connection channels through other trades and skills you can take with you.”
Sticking with it seems to be the key. Some apprenticeships can be several years and require thousands of hours of supervised, on-the-job training, which can be hard to focus on when the hard days come around. “Respect is earned,” stated Timothy, and sticking with it and showing up every day earns you the respect and support needed to complete an apprenticeship successfully. But maybe the biggest perk is that it’s fun to be an expert: “I know how to work with electricity. That’s something a lot of people can’t say,” said Garrett. “That’s super cool.”
Registered Apprenticeship training programs provide apprentices with real-world, hands-on training in professional and technical fields, with support from co-workers and mentors. The personal and professional growth the apprentices spoke of while describing their time with Husky and CFW Electric exemplifies the sense of community that Vermont employers bring to their workplaces. If you’re interested in this experience, don’t hesitate to find out more. Landing a job as an apprentice could lead to your forever career.
Anyone interested in becoming an apprentice must be hired by a company with an apprenticeship program. That list is available on our website (https://labor.vermont.gov/document/apprenticeship-listemployers-and-occ…). For any business interested in learning more about apprenticeships, visit www.apprenticeship.gov, visit labor.vermont.gov/apprenticeship, or send an e-mail to set up a time to talk to firstname.lastname@example.org.