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Do you welcome apprentices from apprenticeship training programs in your shop? Why or why not?

“I’m completing the Red Seal, level 3 for machinists. The biggest problem I have is applying what I learn in the class. In the program, it’s all theory and we don’t actually get to go into a shop to try out what we’re learning in class. This is a six week-long course and you don’t get paid for this. We get laid off and EI is supposed to kick in. I did my level 3 last January and I applied for EI and I didn’t get a cheque until eight weeks later, which was three weeks after I got back to work. That’s the worst part and biggest downfall of the training.”
–Mackenzie Gallant, a machinist who has been with Techtronoics Machine Works Ltd. for three years.

We always have one or two apprentice machinists in our shop. All of our apprentices are graduates of a two or a three year program of Algonquin College in Ottawa. Over the past several years most of these apprentices would opt out to go directly for their licensing exam and not bother to follow any formal course program. The reason for this additional formal training courses are not given in Ottawa and apprentices have to go either to Kingston or Toronto for more training. We had only one apprentice who came after high school but he quit after one year.

Apprentice machinists face many challenges. With the abolition of technical high schools and shop classes, very few high school graduates have been exposed to shop environment. Therefore most high school graduates start at zero, either by enrolling in a two year shop course at the local Community College or by enrolling as an apprentice with an employer. It takes rather long to develop good dexterity with tools and basic skills with metalworking machines. Younger people have better chances of  success if they are motivated and encouraged. To become a machinist by starting from zero after high school and not just a CNC operator (load material blank, close door, press green button, wait for machine to stop, open door, remove part and repeat) is a formidable task. Our high school system and apprenticeship training programs are not organized

In 2006 I had a graduate of a German apprenticeship program in my shop. At 22, Philipp had completed technical high school in Germany. During the last two years, half a day was spent on academic courses and half a day was spent in the shop of the company where he would go after graduation. After graduation he started as a full time apprentice with the company. During four years of apprenticeship, he had formal and on the job training on all aspects of shop operation, such as operation of manual and CNC machines, process planning, fixture design, set-up, CAD/CAM, CNC programming and inspection, and he received his machinist license. He could be given any manufacturing task and could handle it without difficulty. Unfortunately he returned to Germany after five months.

Enrolment in manufacturing technology and shop courses at Algonquin College in Ottawa has been dropping for years. I have several unfilled positions in the shop but cannot find skilled people. The only way I can fill these positions is to take apprentices and train them but that takes time and money. Manufacturing as a profession has lost its “appeal” and a lot of kids want to go to Marketing and Business management. With eroding manufacturing capabilities there will be nothing to market or manage except what we pump from the ground.  
–Bodo Gospodnetic, president, Dominis Engineering Ltd.,Ottawa, ON

“TMW employs 22 machines of which nine are currently enrolled in the Nova Scotia Department of Advanced Labour and Education Apprenticeship Program. We cover the costs of registration, tuition and books, and provide administrative support between the apprentices and the training offer who visits the apprentices monthly. Each apprentice is afforded a journeyman who serves as a mentor and signs off core competencies in their log books. TMW management is part of a provincial steering committee that represents Nova Scotia machine shops to make changes to the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Program. Participating in the program is the right thing to investing in apprentices, TMW is investing in its future.”
–Rhonda Marks, co-owner with husband Ron Marks of Techtronics Machine Works Ltd., Musquodoboit Harbour, NS

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