NICC Launching Apprenticeship Program

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Apprenticeships for individuals in the skilled trades have a long history in the U.S. For decades, machinists, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, welders and other tradespeople have worked alongside the best in their respective fields to hone their skills and develop their expertise.

Apprenticeships serve major purposes for participants and employers. Apprentices can acquire advanced training to earn journeyman and master status, command higher wages and take on positions of greater responsibility. Employers who sponsor apprentices for specialized training cultivate their own workforce talent, improve product quality, increase productivity and impact revenue.

Now Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) is creating a new Metal Working Apprenticeship program at its Peosta campus, which is scheduled to open for students and local employers beginning in fall 2015.

Approved by the U.S. Department of Labor in January, the program will be structured differently from the traditional apprenticeship model. Unlike typical apprenticeship designs that are time-based and focus on each apprentice’s total training hours, the NICC apprenticeship format is competency-based. This allows students to develop their skills in specific areas at their own pace.

“In a competency-based format, employers can constantly rotate their skilled workers on-the-job and in our open computer numerical control (CNC) lab to focus on different areas of production, not simply have an employee do the same machining work all the time,” said Randy Schofield, director of the Upper Mississippi Manufacturing Innovation Center, which will operate the apprenticeship.

According to Schofield, businesses’ interest in the new apprenticeship at NICC is soaring. “My phone is ringing off the hook. We’re ready to start signing up employers as registered apprentice sponsors and to begin identifying apprentices in mid-July. Every single apprentice will have a customized training plan for their apprenticeship that
is developed based on their learning history and work experience in advanced manufacturing, as well as the skill requirements of participating businesses,” Schofield explained.

Highlights of the new competency-based apprenticeship at the College include:

  • Customization, which allows sponsoring employers to add competencies that tailor an occupation to meet their own specific business requirements
  • A fast paced, innovative training system
  • The ability for apprentices to move through the system at their own pace and choose their own class times utilizing an open CNC lab environment at the Peosta campus
  • Credit for previous experience for applicants and college credit for targeted competencies

“In the open CNC lab environment, I will have more one-on-one instructional time with each student. The apprenticeship program is going to be great for NICC, our students and local businesses,” said Dan Parker, lead CNC instructor. “I’m excited to be able to have that hands-on training time because it will increase my students’ knowledge base.”

The Metal Working Apprenticeship program at NICC will focus on three advanced manufacturing occupations: Tool and Die Maker, CNC Set-Up Programmer-Milling and Turning, and Mold Maker.

For more information and to learn how your business can participate as an employer sponsor, contact Schofield at

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