Geneva Scurek is a Manager for the ICATT Skills Initiative at the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest (GACC Midwest). She develops and promotes ICATT's 3-year manufacturing apprenticeship program, which is modeled after Germany's apprenticeship system and designed to meet top industry standards.
Germany has an honorable reputation across the world for its apprenticeship system, which meets the workforce demands of multiple vocational industries, such as business administration, STEM fields and manufacturing.
In Germany, around the age of 16, students can start working for a company while taking classes directly tied to their field of work. Students spend two-thirds of their time training on-the-job and one-third of their time in school learning the theoretical aspects over 2-4 years. There is a very strong focus on preparing youth for skilled careers.
The ICATT program through GACC Midwest offers the same structure and curriculum as the German apprenticeship programs, but tailored to meet American needs and work laws. The first cohort of Industrial Maintenance Technicians started August 2015.
We sat down with Geneva to learn more about how the ICATT apprenticeship program works, how Elk Grove-based manufacturers can benefit, and how it's helping to bridge the skills gap.
Q: What does the ICATT apprenticeship program entail?
A: "The ICATT apprenticeship program's current occupational profiles include Industrial Maintenance Technician, CNC Professional and Freight Forward and Logistics Agent. The employer agrees to hire an apprentice (after they graduate high school) and provide them with hands-on experience while they are taking community college courses.
After the student completes a 3-year apprenticeship, the employer agrees to hire them for a minimum of two years. At this point, the apprentice already knows the company well, and vice versa, and has gained the necessary skills to be an invaluable worker.
Upon successful completion, ICATT apprentices will earn an Associate Degree along with the possibility of continuing to a 4-year program, an internationally recognized German certificate and a nationally recognized DoL apprenticeship certificate. It is a package full of benefits for employers and apprentices."
Q. What is so unique about the program?
A: "Our connection with The Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Germany makes the ICATT program very unique. The GACC network is the only entity licensed to administer the German written and practical examinations developed by experts in the manufacturing field (all translated into English and adapted to US market needs), which means the program maintains a verifiable, internationally recognized, quality standard. Companies in the US are attracted to this program because they know they are developing quality employees, increasing employee loyalty and ultimately giving themselves an edge in the market.
When working with the ICATT program, GACC Midwest provides guidance and support from the first information session for the companies through the implementation of the company curriculum.
Just as in the German system, the ICATT program asks employers to provide the required in-house, company specific training as the apprentices split their time between work and school to earn their degree. Employers participating in the ICATT program see significant value in such an immersive apprenticeship program, which will lead to a well-rounded, highly skilled, problem-solving employee. Participating companies tell us it is well worth the investment."
Q: What does this all mean to an Elk Grove-based manufacturer?
A: "GACC Midwest is bringing together employers, colleges and high schools to help further facilitate industry-driven educational opportunities that attract quality students, create a workforce pipeline, and help meet the needs of manufacturing companies throughout the Midwest.
In the Elk Grove area and across the state of Illinois, companies have the opportunity to participate in ICATT with local community colleges. Elk Grove has a very strong manufacturing and logistics presence and will assuredly continue to grow. The ICATT apprenticeship program is a sustainable, cost-effective solution for companies of all sizes, looking to attract talent and grow their own loyal workforce necessary for a sustainable and successful future."
The next apprenticeship cohort starts in August 2016. Students are starting to apply. Now is the time for new companies to come on board. To learn more, visit www.thinkicatt.com or contact Geneva via email: Scurek@gaccmidwest.org