Local employers expand apprenticeship program

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Four Santa Clarita manufacturing companies are among nine Southern California employers bringing on new apprentices needed to fill in-demand skilled positions.

The companies are part of the California Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship Collaborative (CAMAC), formed last October. The collaborative held a kickoff event Monday at College of the Canyons to mark the start of on-the-job training at the nine companies this month.

“CAMAC is not a program or an organization, it’s a set of standards,” said Tracy DiFillipis, sector strategies manager and apprenticeship coordinator for Goodwill Southern California.

Goodwill administers CAMAC in partnership with employers, College of the Canyons and other community colleges, online training provider ToolingU, and the Department of Labor.

Participating employers chose occupations that experiencing a nationwide critical shortage of workers. These include machinists, computer numerical control (CNC) machine operators and programmers, metal fabricators, welders and molders.

The apprenticeship standards, certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, include sixteen jobs that are in high demand among advanced manufacturers.

“We’ve had manufacturers tell us they could triple the size of their business if they could find enough skilled workers,” DiFilippis said.

Four of the nine companies working with CAMAC in Southern California are based in Valencia. Del West Engineering makes precision components using exotic materials. Fralock makes specialty components and subassemblies for aerospace, life science, medical, satellite, and semiconductor manufacturers.

FMI, Forrest Machining, specializes in machining, sheet metal fabrication, structural assembly, tooling and kitting. Meschkat Precision provides complex machined parts to the medical, aerospace and other industries.

Also participating are Lee’s Enterprise, Repairtech International, Superior Thread Rolling Company, and Xceliron, all based in the San Fernando Valley, and Vanderhorst Brothers in Simi Valley.

The nine companies in the collaborative will hire 12-15 apprentices at first. The apprenticeships are of different lengths depending on the occupation, ranging from one to three years.

With more than 365,000 jobs in Los Angeles County, manufacturing remains a strong economic engine for the local economy, but growth is hampered by a shortage of skilled workers.

“We regularly hear from employers about their challenges to find qualified workers, and the SCVEDC board has made supporting workforce development programs a priority,” said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. “These apprenticeship programs offer new opportunities for companies to fill their needs and help their workers learn new skills that advance their careers.”

A decline in the number of students emerging from high school vocational programs combined with an aging workforce mean the talent pipeline is drying up at both ends. “The age tsunami is very real,” DiFilippis said. “Employers are talking about it all the time.”

Six out of ten available skilled manufacturing positions are unfilled due to a talent shortage, according to a 2015 skills gap study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte.

Funding comes through the federal Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, enacted in 2014. The collaborative started in Northern California, led by John Dunn at American River College in Sacramento working with Siemens Corp.

Colleges are part of the collaborative to provide up to 144 hours per year of related technical instruction. The Labor Department will issue a national credential to apprentices who complete the program, which is honored in every state.

Goodwill Southern California serves people with disabilities or other vocational challenges, as well as businesses, by providing education, training, work experience and job placement services.

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