Oliver Henry
Oliver Henry

U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez recently toured manufacturing sites in Germany to observe the way manufacturers there develop a technical workforce. German manufacturing is known for its apprenticeship programs.

Learning while earning

“I asked one apprentice what he likes the most about his job,’ Perez wrote in a blog, “and he told me it’s that he can learn something new every day and continue to grow his career. Learning while earning – that’s what apprenticeship is all about.”

Oliver Henry is an apprentice in Northern Colorado, and he, too, is learning while earning. He is setting out on 8,000 hours of work under the guidance of a journeyman machinist, plus skills training in Front Range’s Precision Machining Program, all under the auspices of and registration with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Companies need machinists

Paul LeBrun

Paul LeBrun

Northern Colorado manufacturers say it’s a challenge to find qualified machinists. One solution is to develop your own, with an apprenticeship.

That’s what Hydro Technologies in Windsor, Colo., is doing.

“Whenever I see an effort to educate people into the industry, I want to work with them,” says Paul LeBrun, machinist at Hydro Technologies. “I see this as a big responsibility. There’s a lot to learn. I don’t want to be alone with that. Front Range reinforces what Oliver does here.”

From interest to a career

Oliver joined the robotics team at his high school, enjoying most of all the building of a robot. He didn’t know that his interest in hands-on activities could lead to a career until a Front Range advisor connected Oliver to the machining program.

Life of an apprentice

“I go from work to class, and I learn more every day,” Oliver says. The machining lab at Front Range has the same tools and computer-numeric-controlled (CNC) machines as he works with at Hydro Technologies.

“What I learn in the classroom I apply here,” Oliver says. “I’ve yet to have a repetitive day.”

Learning from a master machinist

Oliver says, “Paul has 40 years of experience. I get so much satisfaction leaving here knowing I’ve contributed to something.”

Paul says, “I’m really excited to see young people get excited about this industry. There’s so much to learn.”

What is a Registered Apprentice?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Registered Apprenticeship is a training system that produces highly skilled workers. The program combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction. For employers, it can be a pipeline for new skilled workers, among other benefits. For apprentices, it’s a paid job while going to college and, upon completion, a recognized credential. The greatest benefit for the apprentice, of course, is the opportunity to learn in a classroom and apply the learning on the job.


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