The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) a $4.9 million to expand its model apprenticeship program nationwide.
The National Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program at RCBI will broaden its existing innovative apprenticeships and promote advanced manufacturing pre-apprenticeships for underrepresented groups such as women, transitioning military personnel and disadvantaged youth. It will provide standardized, industry-endorsed, online instruction and on-the-job learning for companies in multiple states. The RCBI program will serve at least 1,000 apprentices and 415 pre-apprentices across the United States.
This effort will make apprenticeships more affordable to employers and more accessible to employees and individuals considering careers in manufacturing.
Through the five-year initiative, RCBI and its partners will deliver apprenticeship training nationwide in core advanced manufacturing areas such as manual and computer-controlled machining while they create new registered apprenticeships in additive manufacturing (better known as 3D Printing), composites and robotics. RCBI will continue to work with a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, robotics, defense and related industries.
“This award recognizes a unique approach to apprenticeship building in West Virginia – praised by the DOL – that has the potential to be replicated across the nation and to address the growing skills gap in manufacturing,” said Charlotte Weber, RCBI Director & CEO.
RCBI’s apprenticeship training model focuses on advanced manufacturing, enabling workers to earn a wage while improving their job skills. This collaborative model leverages the unique expertise and resources of multiple public and private entities from across the nation, including RCBI; Marshall University Research Corp.; the DOL; the National Institute for Metalworking Skills; ToolingU-Society of Manufacturing Engineers; America Makes; General Electric, Aurora Flight Sciences, Swanson Industries and other private industry partners; workforce development agencies; career centers; and community and technical college partners.
In the past five years, RCBI has trained more than 3,000 workers, many through apprenticeships.
RCBI and its partners established a model apprenticeship program at Mohawk Flooring in Holden, Mingo County, using standards approved by the U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Apprenticeship. Through this ongoing effort, Mohawk employees earn while they learn, improving their technical skills while working toward associate degrees.
“Congratulations to RCBI for securing this funding,” said Interim President Gary White. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us to extend RCBI’s important services across the country, training hundreds of people for the high-tech jobs of the future.”
A national study reinforces the need for additional skilled manufacturing workers in the coming decade because of retiring Baby Boomers and anticipated growth in the sector.
To address this critical shortage, the U.S. Department of Labor pledged millions of dollars to expand registered apprenticeship programs in high-skilled, high-growth industries such as health care, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing. The American Apprenticeship Initiative is expected to serve as a catalyst to increase the use of apprenticeships to meet employer needs in these sectors.
“Training programs like the ones this grant will support at RCBI are a critical part of building the highly trained workforce we are working hard to create in West Virginia,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. “Advanced manufacturing is growing exponentially across the country and in West Virginia, and I’m glad we will be able to provide more employers with people who have the skills required for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
Operating for more than 25 years as West Virginia’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, RCBI encourages job creation, economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting manufacturing technology. RCBI provides local access to leading-edge equipment, specialized training and business development assistance for everyone from sole proprietors to Fortune 500 companies so they can remain at the forefront of innovation in an increasingly global economy.