Car dealerships in the East Metro long have offered registered apprenticeship training opportunities to their mechanics, but the number of journey-level workers graduating from the program has declined in recent years.
Looking to shift that trend into reverse, East Metro dealerships, state regulators and representatives of the Machinists union met with technical college faculty and Minnesota AFL-CIO staff this fall and, together, developed a plan to reinvigorate the apprenticeship program – and back it up with some state grant dollars.
“We’re piloting a program, we hope, that some dealerships will take advantage of,” Machinists District 77 representative Rick Ryan said.
Automotive apprentices have struggled in recent years to reach the 144 hours of training required under federal apprenticeship standards. Most cite difficulty in finding courses that are accessible, given their work commitments, or relevant to the work they do.
Dealerships, meanwhile, have been willing to shrug off the training requirements, bumping employees up to journey-level wages after they meet their on-the-job training threshold.
Some 30-plus mechanics in the East Metro are “on the cusp of getting a journeyperson’s card, but could not get the classes to complete it,” Todd Dahlstrom of the Minnesota AFL-CIO said. By reaching out to MnSCU, “we’ve been able to design a class structure that gets them the training they need and want so they can compete that apprenticeship and walk out with that card.”
Completing the apprenticeship is important, Ryan said. “That journeyperson’s card means you’re at the top of your trade,” he said. “It gives our employers a stronger, better employee to do the work and remain competitive.”
The program is modeled after the Industrial Manufacturing Technician apprenticeship program expanding statewide. It’s an example, Dahlstrom said, of how staff at the Minnesota AFL-CIO can help employers and unions access training funds, even when the IMT doesn’t apply.
“If you’ve got an apprenticeship program or specific training that your employees need, we can help you find the dollars to pay for it,” Dahlstrom said. “We have a track record of success doing it, and we’re here to help.”
Want to learn more?
- Find a list of union dealerships in the East Metro at iam77.org/shops.html
- Call Dahlstrom to discuss training opportunities or the IMT apprenticeship program: 651-227-7647.