A Glatfelter program that has trained specialized manufacturing workers in Germany since the 1950s supports company-wide recruitment and retention efforts.
When the nonprofit Jobs for the Future organization convened education, business, and labor leaders in late 2014 for a summit to address the shortage of advanced manufacturing workers in the United States, one topic of discussion was workplace training programs. Such opportunities, including apprenticeships, have been shown to help with employee recruitment and retention.
However, unlike in Europe and India, apprenticeships in the United States have largely been replaced by vocational and post-secondary education. When apprenticeships are offered, they provide an employee a paycheck from day one and wage increases as skill levels increase, hands-on career training, and a nationally recognized, portable credential, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Apprenticeships were established in the Late Middle Ages, the same time period when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Today, they remain a way of life at one of Glatfelter’s Composite Fibers Business Unit (CFBU) facilities in Gernsbach, Germany, which has had an apprenticeship program since at least the 1950s.
Each year, about 250 applicants vie for15 apprenticeships at the Gernsbach location, says Angela Spicola-Hanoman, a Glatfelter human resources officer. The apprentices alternate for three years between a vocational education classroom and a Gernsbach facility for on-the-job experience to become proficient in such professions as paper technology engineer, industrial clerk (office worker), electrical technician, industrial mechanic, and a diverse study program. Spicola-Hanoman says almost all of Glatfelter’s apprentices complete their training.
“Ninety-two percent of our apprentices become Glatfelter employees,” she says. “The 8 percent we don’t get will not have completed their apprenticeships, or will have opted for something else.”
Just as Jobs for the Future concluded that former apprentices tend to stay with a company long-term, Spicola-Hanoman says Glatfelter’s apprentices tend to become loyal employees. More than 40 percent of its 650 employees are former apprentices.
Glatfelter’s real-world experience is reflected in other employers’ attitudes.
When the University of Derby (Nottingham, England) surveyed 200 employers that offered apprenticeships designed to teach higher-level skills, researchers found that the companies generally thought such training would help with employee retention.
Just as Glatfelter can trace its success back in part to Gutenberg’s 600-year-old innovation, the company and its apprentice-trained employees owe some of their good fortune to the apprenticeship system that was developed that many years ago.