In the early 2000s, STOBER Drives Inc. of Maysville, Kentucky, faced a problem many American manufacturers are confronted with in rural America today: finding skilled workers and retaining them over time.
There was no pipeline of high school workers or young adults in our area ready to learn the craft of manufacturing gear boxes and motors. But our firm is German-owned, and more than 55 percent of workers graduate from an apprenticeship program in Germany. Our German owners are supportive and encourage people development, so we implemented a STOBER apprenticeship program. Each apprentice is paid full-time wages and benefits while going to school to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
The skilled labor gap nationwide is projected to get worse. By 2020, America will experience a shortage of 3 million workers with associate’s degrees or higher and 4 million workers with technical certificates and credentials, according to the Center for American Progress.
Luckily, STOBER began working on this initiative more than 10 years ago and has had successes to report. We hired our 27th apprentice this year. Apprentices work 30 hours and attend school 10 hours per week.
It’s a great way to obtain an education and a job without going into debt. Though the average STOBER apprentice age is about 29 years old, we’ve had people in their 40s apply for the program. We retain 85 percent of our apprentices after graduation. Additionally, our growing reputation as a “people developer” has greatly increased our ability to attract top talent.