Apprenticeships help employers meet their needs while enhancing employees’ value and abilities

 By Judy Bass

Robin Dion, NAMC; Jessica Gonzalez and Marko Duffy, TDF Metals

Monday, December 12, 2022 – Jessica Gonzalez was working at TDF Metal Finishing in Danvers in the masking department, which entailed covering parts of items that the company’s clients do not want going through the plating process.

She realized she could be more effective in her role – or take on a more demanding role – if she had more training and education.

Gonzalez, who has worked at TDF Metal Finishing since 2012, opted for a year-long apprenticeship through the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (NAMC) that would allow her to continue to earn her salary while she learned at her own pace during the work day.

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She was able to select the classes she wanted to take, which were offered in-person, virtually and online.

There was no cost to her or her employer. There weren’t even any administrative tasks for her employer because NAMC shoulders that responsibility.

NAMC has grant-funding of $4800 per employee for these apprenticeships. Their employers are eligible for a $4800 tax credit from the state for each apprenticed employee.

Today, Gonzalez is doing extremely well in her present capacity as a quality administrator. She spoke enthusiastically about the NAMC apprenticeship that helped her attain that level. She said, “It gave me a lot of confidence. I understand my role better. I understand when, why, and how things have to be done.”

Gonzalez said she also improved her ability to communicate with colleagues and clients, thanks to classes she took as part of the apprenticeship.

Gonzalez and her supervisor and mentor at TDF Metal Finishing, Managing Director Marko Duffy, both talked about the advantages of placing incumbent, experienced employees in apprenticeships so they can upskill when they took part in a panel discussion at Quinsigamond Community College’s Inaugural Apprenticeship Conference in Worcester on November 16, 2022.

Duffy explained that TDF Metal Finishing needed a quality administrator. He wanted someone like Gonzalez to take it on because she knew the company inside and out. He arranged for her to have the apprenticeship so she would be equipped to handle the position, rather than hire a brand new person who had to learn the company’s operations from the ground up.

“When you take someone internally and supply them with training and education,” said Duffy, “you hit gold. That’s how I feel with Jessica – we hit gold. She’s had three promotions in the last year.”

“If you find the right person,” he added, “you can teach them anything. It’s powerful stuff. I’ve given her [the equivalent of] 10 years of experience [via the apprenticeship] on top of the 10 years she already had at TDF Metal Finishing.”

NAMC Manufacturing Consortium Manager Robin Dion said that the intent of the apprenticeship

TDF Metals Marko Duffy and Jessica Gonzales
TDF Metals, Marko Duffy and Jessica Gonzales, with NAMC Marketing Manager, Robin Dion were Panelists at the Conference

program is to help an employee advance in their career while simultaneously helping a company meet its needs. It makes sense, he pointed out, to cultivate an incumbent employee by training that person and moving them up while hiring new talent at the entry-level.

Dion said that NAMC has provided a total of 309 apprenticeships in six years to manufacturing professionals in Massachusetts with “phenomenal” results.

He gave a few examples of how employees have used apprenticeships to grow.  Assemblers have been trained to be quality control inspectors, administrators have become HR generalists, and group leaders have upskilled for supervisory roles.

Duffy, of TDF Metal Finishing, said that Gonzalez absorbed new material fast. He remarked that her apprenticeship went well for two reasons – 50% being her ability and commitment to learn and another 50% that was his and the company’s investment in making her successful.

As for Gonzalez, she praised the apprenticeship’s flexibility as well as her teachers. She knows that the knowledge and skills she gained will be vital to her career. Plus, she emerged with no burdensome debt.

“It’s awesome,” she declared. “I’m excited to see where this takes me.”

Judy Bass is the communications consultant for NAMC.