Freudenberg apprenticeship helps keep company on the front line of new technologies and advancements in manufacturing machinery, while also helping employees advance in their career.
Doug Hoisington is a Maintenance Technician Apprentice at Freudenberg-Nok’s Bristol plant.
Doug has been with Freudenberg for an amazing 23 years and is participating in the program alongside four of his coworkers.
Freudenberg worked with Lakes Region Community College to develop the apprenticeship program, which consists of 688 hours of classroom instruction and 6,400 hours of on-the-job training. Upon completion of his apprenticeship, Doug will have earned 25 college credits from LRCC which can be applied to a degree program at the college should Doug wish to continue his education upon completion of his apprenticeship.
Doug and his supervisors Rene and Dave recently sat down with us and Karen, HR Director at Freudenberg, to discuss what the experience has been like thus far.
ANH: Doug, why did you want to be a part of this apprenticeship program?
Doug: I wanted to have the chance to learn something new, and to have another challenge at work. Once I finish this program I’ll be working in Maintenance somewhere in the plant, as a millwright helping to build and maintain mill machinery. My previous job at Freudenberg was very routine, I’d do the same thing every day and in this new position, I’ll never really know what I might be working on.
ANH: Dave and Rene, I know that the apprenticeship program is still very new, but what are you seeing as the initial changes in the apprentices’ understanding and ability on the job thanks to this program?
Dave: When Rene and I first started the program, we had no idea how it was going to go. We knew we needed to do it and that it was worth investigating and trying out. So far, I’ve seen nothing but positive results. It has had a positive impact on not only the apprentices themselves but on others around them because the apprentices are helping to teach them. So not only are we training these apprentices to get them up to the technical level they need to be at to perform the job, but they are also re-educating the people that have been in the job forever why they are doing what they do.
ANH: What have been some of the workforce challenges that Freudenberg has faced that prompted you to consider Registered Apprenticeship?
Karen: The Maintenance Technician position is a very hard one to hire for. It can take us anywhere from three to six months to fill a position, and we just filled a position but the person isn’t really up to speed but it’s the best we’ve got. So, we really saw Registered Apprenticeship as an opportunity for us to stay competitive and provide the staffing that our company needed. The other side of it is that we have employees that want some sort of career path and have always wanted to work in Maintenance. They have the aptitude but didn’t have the training. It used to be that people could come into the department and do it without the training but with new technologies and advancements in machinery, our employees really need some training before we can hire them into that role. Apprenticeship was just kind of a win-win for both parties.
ANH: Doug, what have the classes been like? Has it been challenging to balance work and class?
Doug: Yeah, it’s been a bit of a challenge because I’m used to working 55 hours a week, and I’m still working that much but now 16 of those hours are spent in school. As far as the classes go, it’s been pretty good. I don’t think it’s been terribly difficult so far.
ANH: Do you feel like you learn things in class and then you have the opportunity to see how it works on the job?
Doug: Definitely, some of the things I see like learning about different directional control valves and then being able to come on the floor and look at them, and then understand what we’re talking about in class.
ANH: If you had a coworker here who was thinking about or interested in an apprenticeship, what sort of advice would you give them?
Doug: I’d say yes, if you want to be a Maintenance Technician and go to school it’s really good. I think it would be really good for the younger people here who can get through this program and then have a really great career for a long time. A lot of people don’t want to go back to school, but I was really looking forward to it. A lot of other people I know didn’t want to do this because they didn’t want it to take away from their work, or because they thought they could learn just as much taking the classes on their own. But really, I feel like I’m learning more because I’m out on the floor working with the other Technicians and actually working on equipment, fixing things.
Rene: I think a lot of people are thinking in the short term, but Doug is thinking long-term. The further along that Doug gets through this program, he’ll be opening doors for himself and for the company. If somebody just goes to school they come into manufacturing very “green”, but Doug won’t. Doug has skin in the game. He’s here, he’s motivated, and he wants to do better. Doug has ownership over what he does, and he has pride in his work. That’s something that you can’t really teach.
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