Uponor North America has developed an apprenticeship program with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) to help recruit, train and retain skilled workers in the midst of the skilled labor shortage. The apprenticeship is a three-year program in the maintenance department, an area where it is particularly challenging to find qualified employees. Depending on the success of the initial program, Uponor will potentially create additional apprenticeships to further develop both internal and external talent.

“Talent shortages and skill gaps are slowing manufacturers’ efforts to expand, innovate and thrive,” Uponor North America President Bill Gray said. “By developing an apprenticeship program in combination with internships, educational opportunities, and other recruitment initiatives, we hope to mitigate this widespread trend.”

According to a recent study from Deloitte Consulting and the Manufacturing Institute, "The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond,” there will be a shortage of two million manufacturing employees over the next decade, meaning the average U.S. manufacturer will lose 11 percent of annual earnings due to the talent shortage. Seven in 10 manufacturing executives also report shortages of workers with adequate technical and computer skills.

Uponor’s apprenticeship program was developed as part of the Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative (MAI) to expand registered apprenticeships as a workforce-development tool that combines job-related technical instruction with structured on-the-job learning experiences. Apprenticeship Minnesota helps employers design an apprenticeship program that provides participants with specific skills, training and job-related instruction to fit the company’s needs.

“In all skilled occupations across Minnesota, employers are seeking solutions to train new and existing workers for today’s more technical jobs," Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Ken Peterson said. "Apprenticeships can be a proactive and productive solution to address this need.”

The initial maintenance apprenticeship program at Uponor will encompass more than 6,000 hours of on-the-job training and related instruction. Apprentices will receive training in production rotations, working at the repair/fabrication shop, HVAC repair and adjustment, troubleshooting PLCs, basic carpentry, electrical repairs, and rebuilding, installing, adjusting and troubleshooting pneumatics and hydraulics among other skills. Related training will include ABB Robot training, Yaskawa training, and pneumatics and hydraulics training. By the end of the program, apprentices will receive PMMI Level 2 certification and achieve Journeyman status or a Maintenance Electrical license.

Apprenticeships generally start once a student graduates from a two-year technical school, though graduates are eligible to apply for the apprenticeship for up to 18 months after they graduate. Additionally, the state has agreed to allow the second year of education for apprenticeship candidates from vetted programs, including Dunwoody College of Technology, Hennepin Tech, Dakota County Technical College, South Central Community and Technical College, Ridgewater College, St. Cloud Technical and Community College, Anoka Technical, and MN West Community and Technical College, to count for requirements for this specific apprenticeship. This is particularly important to Uponor, which already has an internship program with Dunwoody that can be used as a pipeline for recruiting talent.

In addition to receiving support from the Minnesota Department of Labor in developing the program, Uponor will also receive a Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative grant, through which Uponor will receive $5,000 per registered apprentice to help cover training costs