Southern Utah businesses, workers take advantage of first statewide apprenticeship resource site

ST. GEORGE — Several Southern Utah businesses are taking advantage of Utah’s first statewide apprenticeship resource site, which launched Wednesday.

An apprentice and a journeyman work together at Metalcraft Technologies Inc., Cedar City, Utah, date unspecified | Courtesy of Metalcraft Technologies Inc., St. George News

Melisa Stark, Utah commissioner of apprenticeship programs, said in a press release that interested employers and job-seekers can visit the newly-launched apprenticeship resource website to find ways to get involved.

“As businesses struggle to hire enough workers, and as many Utahns are striving to earn a living wage, there is no better time to consider apprenticeships,” Stark said in the press release. “Employers can hire employees to start right away and learn on the job, and workers can get paid to train for a lucrative career.”

Many building and manufacturing businesses are struggling to hire tradespeople. Among them, Cedar City-based Metalcraft Technologies Inc. is benefitting from onboarding an apprentice, said Vice President Megen Ralphs.

“These apprenticeship resources have helped us to address challenges in hiring computer numerical control machinists,” Ralphs told St. George News. “We used the state’s resources to build our apprenticeship model.”

Metalcraft’s apprentice, who works full-time while attending classes at Southwest Technical College during off hours, earns $14.50 an hour. The apprentice, Ralphs said, receives incremental pay increases as skills-based benchmarks are achieved.

“So the apprentice earns a living while gaining hands-on experience in a highly structured training environment,” she said. “This allows the apprentice’s skills to come alive more quickly, which enables the apprentice to earn higher wages more quickly. It also allows our company to achieve a quicker return on our training investment. It’s win-win.”

Ralphs said that Metalcraft’s first apprentice has been so successful that they’re looking to bring on two to three more apprentices within the next nine months. They may even open up new disciplines, like fabricating, to apprentices.

An ardent supporter of apprenticeship programs, Ralphs said she’s excited to see industries that have traditionally required university degrees, such as Information Technology firms, developing apprenticeship models.

To that end, Jennifer Carlson, executive director at Seattle-based company Apprenti, has partnered with the Utah Department of Workforce Services and Weber State University. Together, they’re searching for people who have the aptitude for information technology careers – but no degree – to work for Southern Utah IT companies like Zoho.

Stock image | Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay, St. George News

“We’ve recruited 18 candidates for entry-level analyst positions at seven companies,” Carlson told St. George News. “We provide on-the-job training and education opportunities so that these candidates can transition from entry-level administrative jobs into engineer roles.”

This is a more inclusive model, Carlson said, that opens up new channels for those who are interested in IT careers but don’t have the industry standard STEM degree plus five years of working experience.

“There’s a finite number of these individuals out there,” Carlson said, “but the demand is continuously growing.”

Peter Fuller, who owns The Workflow Academy in St. George, is one of the employers that receives recruits from Apprenti – and he said he needs them.

“This apprenticeship cohort is expected to be the first in a series of many cohorts trained, in partnership with Zoho,” Fuller said.

The apprentices are trained to become business system designers. Their job is to work with companies around the country to automate and organize their communications processes. The goal, Fuller said, is to build a pipeline in Southern Utah for remote, flexible-schedule, entry-level positions with high wage growth and long-term career opportunities.

“Our apprentices start between $35,000 to $39,000 a year,” he said. “Upon completion of the first year, they earn $55,000 to $62,000 annually.”

According to the press release from Stark, Utah has more than 4,200 apprentices and 265 registered apprenticeship programs in dozens of industries. Apprentices who complete their programs earn more during their careers than non-apprentice participants, and upon completion earn an average of $60,000 annually.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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