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Michigan Works! Association Celebrates National Apprenticeship Week with Visit to Germany


Michigan Works! Association Celebrates National Apprenticeship Week with Visit to Germany

Delegation to study success of German apprenticeship model and share information about successful U.S. apprenticeship programs

LANSING, MI (Nov 4, 2019) – National Apprenticeship Week (Nov. 11-17, 2019), now in its fifth year, is a nationwide celebration that give businesses, communities, and educators the opportunity to showcase their apprenticeship programs, and apprentices, while providing valuable information to career seekers.

This year, the Michigan Works! Association is celebrating National Apprenticeship Week, accompanied by a delegation from the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP), with an international study visit to Germany to better understand the German apprenticeship-training model.  This visit will focus on the latest public policy affecting the German apprenticeship-training model and the importance of apprenticeships as key features of workforce and economic development in one of the world’s strongest economies.

The German apprenticeship model is successful because it combines an effective mix of classroom instruction with on-the-job training. This combination is invaluable in a rapidly changing industrial economy where very specific skill sets are required. There is renewed interest in the German apprenticeship model at companies across the United States.

“The states of Michigan and New York are driving this effort forward,” Luann Dunsford, CEO for the Michigan Works! Association, said. “Both states share an economic picture of overall low unemployment, with hidden pockets of long-term unemployment, particularly among young people, and groups that struggle to access the labor market. In both states there is a demand for skilled employees to meet unfilled job vacancies, calling on workforce development systems to identify, train, place and support the underutilized labor force.”

Apprenticeships will be explored at every level, via meetings with national, state, local, and industry counterparts in Germany, over the course of a week.

“Michigan’s economy continues to recover from the devastating job losses of the Great Recession,” Dunsford said. “Apprenticeships have made a resurgence in manufacturing, construction, and technology. A feature of workforce development in Michigan is pre-apprenticeship programs, which are designed to recruit, screen, assess, select, and train young people to compete successfully for entry into employer-supported apprenticeships.”

In addition to Dunsford, the Michigan delegation includes Lee Graham, Executive Director of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 in Howell, MI; Amy Lebednick, Business Solutions Director for West Michigan Works!, in Grand Rapids, MI; Laura Schoenborn-Preuss, Workforce Development Manager from DeWys Manufacturing in Marne, MI; and Joe Thiry, Business Solutions Manager for West Michigan Works!.

Operating Engineers Local 324 offers apprenticeship programs that feature four years of formal training, combined with on-the-job experience, at a 555-acre world-class equipment training facility.  Graham will be sharing information about this customized program.

“I am pleased and honored to be taking part in this opportunity to exchange ideas, successes, lessons learned and future possibilities with this group,” Graham said. “It is when we come together and explore our shared goals, beyond borders, that we can achieve so many great things. Our specifics may differ, but our challenges are often the same, and it takes a collection of the best ideas to help move our industries and technologies forward, and provide the best and most sustainable training, safety, careers and ultimately, opportunities to the next generations. It also affords us the ability to collaborate on the important goals of workforce development and refine the best practices that allow us to identify, attract, and retain those who will find success in our fields.”

West Michigan Works! has been involved in several different regional collaborations to address talent, curriculum, and advocacy issues.  These collaborative efforts bring employers and community partners together to address talent shortages and build a pipeline of talent for the future.  Lebednick and Thiry will be sharing information about the four talent councils that West Michigan Works! is involved with which cover the career areas of technology, manufacturing, health care, and construction.

“As demand for skilled talent continues to grow in Michigan, registered apprenticeship programs are an important option for companies to train people in the skills they need, ensuring their business remains competitive,” Lebednick said. “This learning experience will allow us to apply best practices to expand apprenticeship programs and provide high-wage, in-demand career pathways to all individuals in our communities.”

DeWys Manufacturing offers on-the-job training through its DeWys University, which is their own version of a manufacturing trade school. The curriculum for this program is based upon both theory and practice.  Not only do students get to understand DeWys Manufacturing, they also get on-the-job training with a certified trainer for the area in which they have applied. Schoenborn-Preuss will be sharing information about this unique training program.

“Hands-on training lasts approximately six weeks,” Schoenborn-Preuss said. “The student then gets incorporated into a production team where he or she will continue to be observed for another six weeks. This approach to manufacturing jobs training allows students to fully understand what it takes to be a successful team member at DeWys Manufacturing.”

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Established in 1987, the Michigan Works! Association fosters high-quality employment and training programs serving employers and workers by providing support activities and a forum for information exchange for Michigan’s talent development system. For more information, visit, or call (517) 371-1100.